At the end of last month, North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), an alliance that includes SMART and 13 other unions, announced a partnership with National Nurses United (NNU) to donate N-95 respirator masks and other protective equipment to nurses around the country.
“The health and safety of our members and their families is always job number one,” said NABTU President Sean McGarvey. “Given the shortage of health supplies, we are asking our contractors and our own training centers to donate N-95 respirators and other protective equipment like face shields and goggles as quickly as possible in their own communities.”
NABTU collectively represents more than 3 million workers in the building and construction industry. NNU is the largest union of registered nurses in the United States.
Answering the call last week in Des Moines, Iowa, SMART Local 45 and the state chapter of SMACNA identified an area hospital — Broadlawns Medical Center — that was in relatively greater need and directed the bulk of their donations to that medical facility.
“It was a fantastic effort by all,” said SMART Local 45 Business Manager Andrew Bredeson, “to help protect those who every day are subjecting themselves to contracting COVID-19, without hesitation, while providing care for others.”
Characterizing the efforts by Iowa first responders, doctors and nurses as “nothing short of heroic,” Bredeson also underscored the key role of James Vasey of Acme Tool, who “scoured the country and helped procure the N95 dust masks.”
Across the country, other SMART members and locals are also stepping up and helping to gather and donate protective equipment for health care workers and first responders.
“We all know we are in unprecedented times. But we must get through this together,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers on the most recent Talking SMART podcast episode. “We must lean and learn from each other. Our SMART family will come together and we are not alone as we fight this together.”
As the federal governent struggles to help deliver desperately needed medical equipment and supplies to states hit hardest by COVID-19, health care workers are expresssing gratitude for the help they are already receiving from their brothers and sisters in the building trades.
“We are beyond grateful to the building trades for their generous donation of respirator masks and other equipment to help protect nurses and other health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. “Our nation’s leaders have failed to protect us while we care for this country’s sick, and we condemn their inaction. Working people always have each other’s backs, even when our government does not.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently weakened its infectious disease guidelines for health care workers, announcing that, in a pinch, even a bandana or scarf is adequate protection for nurses.
“The CDC’s guidelines are meaningless because they are based on inadequate stock, not on actual science about what protects nurses and other health care workers,” said Castillo. “We need the highest level of protections—N-95 respirator masks and other protective gear—not surgical masks or bandanas.”
SMART locals, other building trades unions and construction industry employers can donate masks and other equipment in a variety of ways. If you have local connections with individual nurses or health care workers, you can work through your central labor councils to coordinate local distribution of donated equipment. Another option is to ship donations directly to NNU’s office in California or to the AFL-CIO’s office in Washington, D.C.
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