Textile groups and workers are seizing on President Joe Biden’s “Made in America” agenda, calling on more support for domestic manufacturing of personal protective equipment during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, several industry and labor groups including the National Council of Textile Organizations, Workers United/SEIU, the National Cotton Council, AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers and others said that forthcoming stimulus efforts should contain measures to support domestic PPE manufacturing.
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“Our industry and its workers quickly mobilized to find innovative solutions to the crisis by proactively retooling production lines and retraining workers to provide American-made PPE to front-line medical workers,” the groups said in their letter to Congressional leaders.
“At a time when global supply chains broke down and left health care workers without ready access to desperately needed medical gear and supplies, these domestic manufacturers stepped up, retooling supply chains overnight to manufacture and supply millions of urgently needed textile and nonwoven components and end items such as face masks, surgical gowns, isolation gowns and testing swabs.”
The groups said they represent a textile manufacturing chain that includes some 600,000 workers in the country.
The companies they represent require longer-term investments and protective measures in order to sustain their PPE production operations and demand, a needed source of income during a prolonged economic crisis, they said.
For one, the groups called for stricter government contract rules that would prioritize domestic PPE manufacturers for federal purchases, as proposed in the American PPE Supply Chain Integrity Act, which is before Congress. In addition to government purchases, new stimulus measures should create incentives for private companies to buy American-made PPE, the groups said. Such incentives can include tax credits or providing for Medicaid reimbursements to companies that purchase domestically made PPE, they said.
“The U.S. textile industry and the labor organizations that represent our workforce stand ready to construct a domestic public health supply chain fully capable of meeting our current and future national PPE needs,” the groups wrote. “We want to work with Congress to prioritize onshoring of critical supply chains including PPE, and value the opportunity to collaborate on this critically important goal to make it a reality.”
When the coronavirus lockdowns began last March and cases and hospitalizations started to surge, a number of apparel manufacturers that had been temporarily shuttered moved to produce PPE instead. Companies including Brooks Brothers, Tailored Brands, and Under Armour moved to produce masks and gowns as hospitals faced shortages in gear.