Above: Solidarity tweet by Rep. Rashida Tlaib on the lawsuit against the federal government for failing to invoke the Defense Production Act, filed by the highly revered LNS ally Center for Biological Diversity.

On October 8, labor unions representing healthcare workers, teachers, transit operators and millions of other frontline workers joined with environmental groups to sue the federal government over its failure to provide adequate reusable respirators, N95 masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment to these essential workers.

The lawsuit demands that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf act immediately to ensure the manufacture and distribution of PPE. These agencies failed to respond to an August petition that demanded emergency action, violating federal law. The agencies have refused to properly manage PPE production and distribution, leaving states and industry to compete and frontline workers short of supplies.

This is part of an unprecedented effort led by the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) to build power among labor unions and environmental groups to fight together in this COVID crisis—and against the greater climate emergency. The environmental community has given its legal and campaigning muscle to fight like hell shoulder-to-shoulder with frontline and essential workers to confront this horrendous crisis. The exploitation of frontline workers is the same type of abuse that government and corporations inflict on the environment and climate.

Plaintiffs include labor unions representing over 15 million workers:

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
Amalgamated Transit Union
American Federation of Teachers
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA
Communications Workers of America
Service Employees International Union
Transport Workers Union of America
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
United Steelworker

Here are key links for the lawsuit: