Today, CWA joined other labor unions and environmental groups to sue the federal government over its failure to provide adequate reusable respirators, N95 masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment to essential workers. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., says Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf should immediately use the Defense Production Act to ensure adequate PPE supply for frontline workers. The agencies failed to respond to an August petition from the groups that demanded emergency action.
"It's difficult for healthcare workers to get supplies on a daily basis because employers are conserving what they have, and having to ask or find PPE on our own is a horrible practice," said Denise Abbott, an emergency room nurse in Buffalo, N.Y., and a member of CWA Local 1168. "Staff still have to reuse masks for the entire day unless they're dirty, damp, or damaged. PPE must be at the ready and used properly if we're ever going to see an end to this crisis. With the flu season fast approaching, healthcare workers are again facing great risk from this administration's failure to act."
Steady growth in COVID-19 cases nationwide has led to a shortage of lifesaving equipment – including gloves, masks, gowns, and sterilizing supplies – for millions of essential workers. This shortage has left CWA members without adequate respiratory protection throughout the pandemic in healthcare, telecommunications, airlines, public sector, manufacturing, retail, law enforcement, education, and broadcasting, media, and the news. People of color are more likely to be part of the essential workforce and at higher risk of death from the coronavirus.
"People are dying, and more people are going to die because the Trump administration has totally failed to protect Americans who have been on the job throughout the pandemic keeping our country running," said CWA President Chris Shelton. "Workers are terrified about the possibility of having to face a potential third surge of this COVID-19 virus during flu season without having access to adequate protective equipment. Trump and his cronies need to focus on the real problems people are facing and use every tactic within their power to get PPE produced and distributed to workers."