EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (CBS) — After 40 years on the job, an Indiana steel worker is suddenly calling it quits – all because of the coronavirus.
As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, the worker, Homero Hinojosa, decided to take his health into his own hands.
Hinojosa made the decision to retire early after watching the news and talking with his family a couple weeks ago. He slept on it, and the next morning, he walked off the only job he has known.
“I’m just going to tell my boss – you know, that’s it,” said Hinojosa, who has worked for more than four decades at the ArcelorMittal plant at Indiana Harbor. “As of right now, I’m retiring.”
“Even my girlfriend and my daughters – they tell me: ‘You know what Dad? I’m glad you got out of there,’” Hinojosa said.
The equipment operator of 45 years called it a career.
“Not having enough wipes to wipe everything down; cleanliness in the bathrooms,” Hinojosa said.
Indeed, Hinojosa said the coronavirus accelerated his plans to retire.
“I just turned 64 this March, and I’m diabetic, and with the symptoms like that, I said I can’t take no chances,” he said. “I’m going to quarantine and get ready to enjoy my retirement after this is all over.”
ArcelorMittal is a global company operating in more than a dozen U.S. states. The company said in an email to staff that 22 employees have tested positive.
It goes on to read, “Regrettably, we must reduce our employment levels.”
A current employee who works in the 80-inch hot strip section of the mill talked with CBS 2 by phone.
“Right now at the 80-inch, there are seven confirmed. There are multiple people out with symptoms,” the employee said.
The employee asked not to be identified, but echoed co-workers’ concerns.
“Coming into work, there are a lot of people that are nervous about their surroundings,” the employee said. “The layoffs are coming, and they will probably be coming this coming week.”
It looks like the veteran Hinojosa got out just as the sun is setting on so many others.
“I decided I’m leaving,” he said. “Something told me, you got to get out of there.”
Employees said they have already seen a reduction in hours for some staff.
CBS 2 did reach out to ArcelorMittal, but have not received a response back.