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“We need masks to save lives:” Healthcare Workers Call on President Trump to Use Defense Production Act to the Fullest for all PPE




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 2, 2020

Contact: Kenneth Londono,, 917-574-8756


“We need masks to save lives:” Healthcare Workers Call on President Trump to Use Defense Production Act to the Fullest for all PPE

Joined by Elected Officials, CWA and NYSNA Members Rally for Critically Needed Protective Gear to Limit the Spread of COVID-19 and Protect Themselves, their Families and Patients

Frontline Workers Not Adequately Prepared for the Surge We are Experiencing and the Expected Peak Over the Next Month

BUFFALO, NY -- Frontline healthcare workers with CWA and NYSNA union members were joined by elected officials at rally today at Niagara Square in Buffalo, NY in their cars and on virtual livestream to call on President Trump to act and fully utilize the Defense Protection Act to supply critically needed personal protective equipment or PPE to essential workers during this crisis. 

Due to the country's lack of preparedness for the surge in hospitalizations and the contagious nature of the virus, the CDC has relaxed long-standing guidelines related to the use of PPE instead of dealing with the shortage head-on. This has forced healthcare workers to reuse equipment that is only designed to be used one time. Relaxing utilization guidelines on PPE puts frontline healthcare workers in serious danger of getting sick, as they are working under hazardous conditions, risking their lives, the lives of their loved ones and patients.  

The Defense Product Act (DPA), a Korean War-era law, would allow the government to compel companies to prioritize the government’s order over those of other clients. In this case, healthcare workers are calling on President Trump to use the DPA to compel companies to produce critically needed personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, gowns and more. 

“Our members are fiercely committed to their patients. Healthcare workers across the country are risking their lives and the lives of their families every day because they do not have the proper protective gear or enough medical supplies. We are here to call attention to this critical lack of life-saving equipment. This is a problem that can and must be solved. President Trump must use the Defense Production Act fully and put America to work producing the things we need on the frontlines NOW.” said  Dennis Trainor, Vice President CWA District 1.

“The lives of brave healthcare workers are on the line. Their safety and the safety of their loved ones and patients are compromised every day they do not have sufficient protective gear. Our frontline workers should feel prepared to combat this crisis, instead they are afraid, overwhelmed and exhausted. That is why we are here today and calling on President Trump to act. 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. Anything less will not do,” said Debbie Hayes, CWA District 1 Area Director. 

"This is a matter of life and death, as well as a matter of patient care. Having enough personal protective equipment and medical supplies isn’t just about us - it’s about protecting every single person who walks through our doors, whether they’re a patient or a hospital worker or an EMT or a caregiver. 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. But that's the current reality of the COVID-19 crisis and the lack of action from the federal government. Enough is enough. President Trump, there is literally no more time to waste. Use the Defense Production Act to its fullest extent NOW and get us the equipment and supplies we need to do our jobs," said Cori Gambini, President CWA Local 1168.

Congressman Brian Higgins said, "There must be a concerted effort to domestically produce and source items like N95 masks, protective gowns, face shields, and gloves. It is imperative for our healthcare workers and the patients they serve. There is no time to waste. This is a matter of life and death."

"As a nation, we need to move more aggressively to ensure New York’s frontline workers are properly prepared with the critical supplies, including personal protection equipment and ventilators, that they desperately need to fully address this growing crisis," said Senator Tim Kennedy. "Day after day, we're hearing stories of supply shortages across the country. Every day the Defense Production Act isn't effectively implemented, the health and safety of these heroes is knowingly being put at risk." 

"Our healthcare workers are serving on the front lines in the battle against Covid-19, and we owe it to them to make sure they have the supplies they need," said Assemblyman Sean Ryan.  "We've seen companies across the country step up to do their part, but utilizing the Defense Protection Act would allow us to further increase production of desperately needed PPE.  Our healthcare providers are working tirelessly to protect the most vulnerable members of our population, and we need to do everything we can to help those workers stay safe while serving our community." 

"Shortages of basic medical supplies and protective equipment for healthcare workers are damaging our state’s ability to respond to this urgent, life or death, crisis. This reality on the ground puts these brave frontline healthcare workers and their patients in danger. The only way this can be remedied is by putting America to work, producing the things we need to get through this crisis, through the full use of the Defense Production Act. I am urging President Trump to do so, immediately," said Assemblymember Karen McMahon.  

“Our nurses are risking their lives every day by serving on the front lines against COVID 19. The failure of the federal government to provide personal protective equipment to our healthcare workers is a travesty. Even now, after the problem has been widely reported, we are not seeing the appropriate level of urgency from leaders in Washington. They must act now,” said Assemblymember Pat Burke. 

"Our brave and tireless healthcare workers are on the front lines of this crisis, working long hours and putting themselves and their families at risk to save lives. They are soldiers in this war and they deserve the critical equipment needed to protect them. News reports today say that the national stockpile of Personal Protective Equipment is depleted. That is unacceptable. I call on President Trump and the federal government to immediately invoke the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of these desperately needed supplies. We cannot wait another minute to do so,” said Assemblymember Monica Wallace. 

"On behalf of the Executive Board of the Western New York Area Labor Federation, we salute the frontline workers in the struggle against the Coronavirus pandemic. And we call upon the federal government to do everything in its power to provide Personal Protective Equipment for those workers. This includes the nurses, hospital workers, frontline people in grocery stores, truck drivers who are out on the road delivering products, the warehouse workers - everybody, and especially those in the hospitals and nursing homes need this PPE, and they need it now," said Richard Lipsitz, President, Western New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

"The current situation we are in is one that shouldn’t have caught this country off guard, but unfortunately has. At a federal level all the way down to local municipalities there have been multiple missteps that are jeopardizing both the community and the people who work so hard to take care of it. We are the frontline workers who continue to show up and put ourselves in danger without the highest level of protection. We are the first line of defense when it comes to getting this pandemic under control. We are all aware there is a shortage of PPE in this country, and we are aware that we are going to run out at some point. But what happens when you run out of employees?,"  said Liam Morrissey, RN, Erie County Medical Center.


About CWA District 1: CWA District 1 represents over 13,000 healthcare workers statewide including nearly 8,000 in Western New York. Overall, CWA District 1’s membership in New York State is 65,000. 

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