Why These Employees Lived At Their Factory For A Month To Help Coronavirus Response Effort

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Over 40 employees of the Braskem petrochemical plant in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania have finally returned home from the longest shift of their lives: 28 days, each of which was spent making crucial raw materials in the production of protective gear.

In order to ensure their families did not catch the virus as they worked overtime to meet soaring demand, employees volunteered for a “live-in,” eating, sleeping, and working at the plant for nearly a month.

The crew worked 12-hour shifts to churn out tens of millions of pounds of polypropylene, the raw material used to produce a non-woven fiber used to make hospital gowns, N95 masks, and sanitary wipes—precious commodities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were just happy to be able to help,” said Joe Boyce, an operations shift supervisor and a 27-year veteran at the plant. “We’ve been getting messages on social media from nurses, doctors, EMS workers, saying thank you for what we’re doing. But we want to thank them for what they did and are continuing to do. That’s what made the time we were in there go by quickly, just being able to support them.”

 

Braskem America CEO Mark Nikolich estimated that the company’s Pennsylvania and West Virginia plants have produced 40 million pounds of polypropylene over the past month, enough to make millions of gowns and masks.

“It just makes you immensely proud to be associated with a team like that,” Nikolich told The Washington Post. “They’re operating in a strange environment 24/7, 365.”

Nikolich added that the live-in crew were paid for all 24 hours each day, with a built-in wage increase for both working hours and off time.

“We tried to make them as comfortable as possible,” Nikolich said.

The Post reports:

Boyce said some guys brought their Xbox consoles and TVs, and even a cornhole set, to stay entertained. They stayed active at the on-site gym, which “has never been used so much before,” Boyce said, and stayed extra busy in the kitchen. A skilled cook, Boyce and others asked corporate for more pots and pans and a stove, whipping up creamed corn, barbecue and even filet mignon dinners for more than 40 people a night.

Separation from their family only became more painful as time went on, however. Visitors weren’t allowed, and one employee even missed the birth of his first grandchild.

On Day 14 of the month-long “shift,” however, their families organized a “drive-by visit,” Boyce said.

With a police escort, over two dozen families drove by with signs, celebrating not only reaching the halfway point, but also the fact that workers remained free of any signs of having caught coronavirus.

This past Sunday, Boyce told the Post, the men were elated to see their hard work come to an end.

“We wanted to walk out as a team,” Boyce said. “Everybody felt that way. It really hit me when my car got a little ways down from the plant — I’m finally going to see my family.”

The Post added that the workers will receive a well-earned week off and a pay raise before returning to work again.

These are true heroes!

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