Healthcare labor unions sue US over alleged failure to provide PPE to essential workers

Labor unions representing healthcare workers as well as teachers, transit operators and other front-line workers have filed a lawsuit against the federal government over their alleged failure to provide adequate protective gear and other medical supplies to essential workers. 

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 8 in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., calls on HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Chad Wolf, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to immediately use the full powers of the Defense Production Act to ensure adequate supply of personal protective equipment for front-line workers. 

“The secretaries have failed to fully utilize their authority, leading to a shortage of PPE,” the lawsuit says. 

Mr. Azar and Mr. Wolf didn’t respond to an August petition from the groups demanding emergency action to supply PPE to front-line workers, the labor unions — which represent more than 15 million frontline workers — said in a news release. 

“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 one of the labor unions included in the lawsuit. 

“With the flu season fast approaching, healthcare workers are again facing great risk from this administration’s failure to act,” she added.

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