When California announced yesterday that the state, with the exception of “essential employees,” was on lockdown, many business such as auto glass companies, wanted to make sure that they indeed fall into that essential category. Then this morning the Pennsylvania Governor declared only “life-sustaining businesses” can stay open. As of the writing of this article, New York just ordered all non-essential workforce stay home. No doubt, the list will get longer. Let’s look at what all this means for auto glass businesses.
In an article on Penn Live today, the article defined life sustaining businesses which includes automotive repair and maintenance. Auto glass generally falls into this category.
That same description exemption for auto repair businesses seems to apply in California as well.
David Leach is the chief operations officer of Dons Mobile Glass, a full-service glass company with locations in California that provide everything from auto, home and commercial repair. Leach says his business falls into two different criteria: auto and home repair.
“This makes sense as we do residential and commercial,” he says. “If you dig further into the [California] state order in addition into the exceptions, they say if you maintain one of the 16 factors in the government’s key infrastructure, then you are essential. We maintain transportation with semis, etc. and we maintain buildings. If someone throws a brick through a window someone has to fix that.”
Still, all this is new territory and he says he hasn’t seen anything like this in his 35 years or so in business.
“What’s crazy about this is the sheer amount of things hitting us one after another,” he says. “As of last Thursday, it was business as usual. Then we predicted the schools closing would be the first trigger then the restaurants then some sort of stay home order but we thought that would take weeks for all those things to happen. Then Monday morning we came in—we have a wholesale business as well—and found out they closed the Bay Area. We thought that will kill us.”
But it hasn’t, Leach reports his company has been busy, and he guesses that perhaps individuals are trying to take control of the things they can.
“Also, it’s probably because people have time to take care of things now.”
But what about the installers who have to be around the customers?
“One of my biggest concerns is being in and out of these vehicles and around these customers daily,” says Cody Stelly, Aces Glass and Mirror in Lake Charles, La. “It’s like we do the exact opposite of stay home instead we run into to the storm! But we glass guys are a tough breed!”
Leach says his company is taking precautions and using common sense.
“We are limiting contact,” he says. “We are gloved up and wiping down surfaces. It’s a common sense thing. There is not much you can do–especially if it’s going to be as widespread as some people think. We are just trying to balance it all and so far it has worked. We have learned to work day by day and hour by hour.”
Leach also addresses the issue of sick leave saying we now have federal sick leave for companies that qualify.
“If you have a certain size company you have to provide it,” he says. “We are taking those at risk and trying to find ways to have them work at home. We have sent some people home out of caution and then set some return to work guidelines. It’s an easy decision when you know they are going to be covered and you are not going to financially devastate someone by sending them home.”