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Union members, elected officials call for White House to mandate PPE production

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Photo courtesy of Berlin Rosen

BY GRANT LANCASTER

Healthcare workers, union members and elected officials gathered in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday to call on President Donald Trump to use a Korean-War-era law to produce protective equipment that has become scarce during the surge of infections during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Defense Production Act allows the president to force companies to fill government orders as a priority, in this case orders for manufacturing protective equipment like masks, gloves and gowns.

The protestors, including members of the Communications Workers of America and the New York State Nurses Association, adapted to the era of social distancing by assembling in their cars and on a livestream feed to make their requests known.

These union leaders and elected officials think that the federal government has failed to respond appropriately to widespread shortages of essential medical equipment, even after these shortages have been made known.

“The truth is, President Trump has the power to fix this by using the Defense Production Act fully to require the immediate production of the protective gear, ventilators, medical supplies and all the things we need to fight this battle,” said Debbie Hayes, CWA District 1 Area Director.

The lack of protective equipment is dangerous to both patients and medical professionals, who are concerned about spreading the infection.

“In my 36 number of years working as a registered nurse, I have never been in a situation where I’ve felt I had to choose between my patient’s safety or my own,” said Cori Gambini, President CWA Local 1168. “But that’s the current reality of the COVID-19 crisis and the lack of action from the federal government.”

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