Peter Welch, CEO of the National Automobile Dealers Association, took his case to President Donald Trump last week and argued that U.S. dealerships provide an essential service.
As such, a letter from Welch and other industry leaders went, dealers deserve to be protected and allowed to stay open during the COVID-19 crisis.
Such cards should never be played lightly. So anyone who stands to benefit from the appeal bears an obligation to abide by the spirit of Welch's contention that dealers are needed to "ensure that our nation's motor vehicle fleet remains as safe and operational as possible."
That means auto retailers themselves must operate in a safe fashion while fulfilling that higher purpose. So we were distressed when we were contacted — out of the blue — by a dealership employee with some serious worries.
Unprotected workers crawling in and out of loaner cars and vehicles being repaired. Senior citizens face-to-face with service advisers.
No gloves. No masks. Scant sanitization beyond disinfectant. Bosses showing little evident awareness — let alone concern — that relatively young and healthy employees might pose a lethal risk to vulnerable older relatives.
Yes, there were perfunctory warnings to consumers and staffers about safety. But the everyday behavior shouted that this place's main focus was generating more business.
Not surprisingly, workers fear speaking up.
"Everybody is too afraid to say anything because they're too afraid to lose their jobs," this employee said.
Keep in mind, this was not from a rural outpost far from COVID-19's deadly path. The word came from inside a big dealership group in one of the states hardest hit by the new coronavirus.
We hope the situation at this store is an isolated case.
But let it be a reminder of the need for this pandemic to foster our noblest instincts.
This is an unspeakably challenging time for our global community. Those businesses that manage to stay open must view it as a privilege, an opportunity to play a role in the service of our fellow humans — employees and customers alike — above anything else.