The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and other labor groups representing health care workers, teachers, transit operators and millions of other frontline workers including Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, ATU, the AFL-CIO, AFT, APWU, SEIU, and TWU joined with environmental groups today to file an emergency rulemaking legal petition demanding that the Trump administration take action to provide adequate masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to these essential workers. The petition was led by the Center for Biological Diversity. See the full list of signers here.
The petition demands that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf act immediately to ensure the manufacturing and distribution of adequate PPE. The Trump administration has refused to properly manage PPE production and distribution, leaving states and industry to compete and frontline workers short of supplies. The petition requests a response from the administration within 15 days. If the administration fails to respond, the groups could sue in federal court to compel a response.
"Although in New York we're past the initial surge, the PPE situation for workers is still an urgent problem. We're still facing a shortage of N95 masks, gowns, and other crucial PPE," said CWA Local 1168 Director of Health and Safety Denise Abbott, an ER nurse at Kaleida Health and member of CWA Local 1168 in Buffalo. "In New York and New Jersey during the surge, the nurses who got N95s were forced to use them for extended periods of time and use them over and over even though they are meant to be disposed of after working with each patient. Local 1168 had nurses who got sick and one member died.”
"As states reopen and the number of COVID-19 illnesses and hospitalizations continues to rise to unprecedented levels, we need the president of the United States to stop abdicating his responsibility to protect workers who are putting their lives on the line to do their jobs, said CWA President Chris Shelton. “Leaving workers to fend for themselves while there are grave shortages of adequate PPE during a pandemic is unacceptable and un-American. CWA members and all workers need Donald Trump to do something useful for once and order the cronies he's put in charge of the federal government to use every tactic within their power to get PPE produced and distributed."
“Employers have still not been able to return to normal standards of care and PPE use because they are afraid of running out of supplies again if there is another surge,” said Abbott. “It was traumatizing for nurses during the peak in New York, and is now traumatizing to see the same thing happen to other nurses and healthcare workers as cases rise in other parts of the country. Other essential workers and those returning to work also need N95s and other respirators for hazards on the job. We need to ramp up production of crucial PPE now."