A report released today by CWA and other unions and advocacy groups exposes the role of major corporations, via their leadership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in lobbying against the use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to coordinate medical supply distribution in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic. President Trump has thus far refused to use the full power of the DPA to ensure that hospitals and frontline workers have the supplies they need to protect themselves and the public.
This week, IUE-CWA President Carl Kennebrew wrote to President Trump asking him to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to compel General Electric to use its underutilized facilities to produce more life-saving ventilators. "The most effective way for GE to meet our nation's ventilator needs is to put thousands of skilled GE workers to work in underutilized GE facilities across the country," Kennebrew wrote.
"The crisis we face with the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes. It requires us – all of us – to work for the common good," said CWA President Chris Shelton. "But at a time when our country is depending on skilled workers to make essential products like ventilators, IUE-CWA members at General Electric are left wondering why they are facing layoffs instead of having the opportunity to use their skills to help save lives. It's shameful that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is actively lobbying against the use of the Defense Production Act."
The report, "Unmasked: The Corporations Backing a Lobbying Campaign Against the Use of the Defense Production Act," documents that many of the most powerful corporations that lead the Chamber have direct financial interests in how the COVID-19 response plays out.
"I am not happy that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the corporate executives who sit on its board, are actively lobbying against using the Defense Production Act to produce such supplies," said CWA member Vanessa Quinn, a registered nurse in Buffalo, N.Y., in an article on the report in the American Prospect. "The Federal government, during a time of crisis, has the responsibility to ensure that we have the supplies and equipment we need."