Unmasked - Action Center on Race and the Economy

The Corporations Backing a Lobbying Campaign Against the Use of the Defense Production Act

Executive Summary

The Trump Administration has refused to make systematic use of the Defense Production Action to accelerate the delivery of needed medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) despite urgent calls from hospitals, healthcare workers, and workers in “essential jobs” to do so.

This policy decision has had a devastating impact on the health of low-wage Black and Latinx workers in particular, who are overrepresented in essential public, service, and agricultural sector jobs that put them at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, and account for a significantly higher portion of fatalities from the disease.

While headlines have focused on sporadic jousting between the White House and some companies, the US Chamber of Commerce has played a powerful role in lobbying against deployment of this crucial policy tool. Many of the most powerful corporations that lead the Chamber have direct financial interests in how the COVID-19 response plays out. The companies – including medical manufacturers like 3M and Honeywell, major employers of frontline workers, and big banks – have the power and responsibility to reverse the Chamber’s lobbying agenda that prioritizes corporate control and profit over public health and well-being.

Summary of Recommendations

Corporations affiliated with the US Chamber of Commerce should swiftly and publicly support full and equitable invocation of the Defense Production Act to speed and coordinate the production of urgently needed PPE, tests, ventilators and other medical equipment, and pressure the Chamber to do the same.