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Companies Step Up to Save America

From a 10-person sewing operation to UAW auto plants, workers & companies are stepping up to fight COVID-19

Kris LaGrange's picture
Apr 08, 2020

In times of crisis, American companies are sometimes asked to step up and help. During World War II, auto companies began producing tanks and during natural disasters, Budweiser cans water instead of beer. The COVID-19 outbreak is no different and below are some of the companies that stepped up during this crisis to help the American people.

Hand Sanitizer

One of the first products to sell out was hand sanitizer. Companies like Purell and GermX couldn’t keep up with demand. While consumers were buying up all of the available bottles, essential offices like hospitals, grocery stores, and state office buildings need large quantities for their employees. Major fragrance and makeup brands like The L’Oréal Group, whose employees are UFCW members, and Coty, which manufactures products for Marc Jacobs and Gucci, announced that they would be using their factories to produce hand sanitizer. Estee Lauder has also announced they will reopen their factory in Melville New York, which is in the middle of the crisis zone, to produce the needed sanitizer.

Distilleries are also stepping up. Since the alcohol content in the hand sanitizer is similar to what is used to produce traditional spirits, it only seemed natural. However, some distillers are reporting having trouble buying small plastic bottles, so they have had to be creative.

Face Masks and Gowns

One of the most talked about shortages has been around the lack of face masks. With a recommendation from the CDC for all Americans to wear face coverings, more and more Americans are looking to get face masks, but healthcare workers report shortages. Some have even been forced to wear single use masks and gowns for up to 5 days in a row. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo even begged companies to start producing this vital equipment.

Answering the call, fashion companies have stepped up in a big way. Retailor Zara’s, which has a CBA with UFCW and RWDSU, donated 10,000 surgical masks and produced another 300,000 that were set to ship last week. Los Angeles Apparel has also begun making masks and gowns, producing 300,000 masks and 50,000 gowns per week. Even small, high-end fashion designers like Christian Siriano turned his ten-person sewing operation into a mask producing factory. In the first week he 1,000 masks that he donated to the triage hospital at the Javits Center in New York City. Since then he has made thousands more for the healthcare workers in the epicenter of the pandemic.

Car Companies Get Into the Action

Perhaps the most publicized company to switch manufacturing is General Motors. While Trump claims to have used the DPA to force them to make ventilators GM put out the call to 900 suppliers telling them to be prepared to switch from car production to ventilator production weeks before Trump stepped in. They have now committed to building 30,000 of the life-saving devices at their Kokomo Indiana plant, which is represented by UAW Local 292. GM believes going forward they can produce 10,000 ventilators a month if needed. GM will also be converting a plant in suburban Michigan to create surgical masks.

“We tell our children and grandchildren to give back and pay it forward,” said Penni Cox who is a UAW member at the Kokomo plant. “Here is our opportunity to show them exactly what that means,” Cox said she never imagined she would be building medical equipment. “But that is what is needed so that is what we have to do,” she says. “And what we build will be used to save lives. That is a good feeling.”

Not to be outdone, Ford has been producing ventilators, respirators, and face shields. The company announced on Monday that they had shipped their one-millionth shield and said their UAW workforce was producing 225,000 shields a day. Ford is also teaming with 3M and GE to manufacture respirators and ventilators. Ford is hoping to produce 50,000 ventilators over the next 100 days.

These are just a few of the many stories of companies big and small stepping up to help during the crisis. They are just a few examples of companies stepping up, sometimes at great cost to the company, to do what is right and to help their fellow citizens and frontline workers. When this crisis is over remember the companies that stood up and helped our country get through this crisis.

A UAW member at a Ford plant making face shields

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