Wisconsin Machinists Union Members Race to Meet Global Ventilator Shortage Amid COVID-19 Crisis

IAM.Sprocket.logo_Members of Machinists Union IAMAW Local 1406 employed at GE Datex-Ohmeda in Madison are in a race against the clock to produce ventilators needed in the worldwide fight against the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The more than 340 workers – who build anesthesia, respiratory and infant care machines – ratified a one-year emergency contract extension Thursday night in a lightning fast attempt to meet the sudden increased demand for ventilators across the globe.

The goal is to produce as many ventilators as possible in the next 90 days.

“The IAM and GE management were due to enter into regular negotiations next month, but the IAM decided the production of these vitally-important ventilators was too important to wait,” said IAM District 10 Directing Business Representative Alex Hoekstra. “On Monday, the union proposed a one-year agreement that protects its members and rewards them for the advanced and lifesaving work they do every day. Tonight, members of the IAM overwhelmingly voted to accept that contract.”

“This extension allows the company and union to work together to produce lifesaving ventilator equipment that will be used around the world to combat the virus,” said IAM District 10 Business Representative Joe Terlisner. “Both union members and salaried workers will be working on the shop floor side-by-side in order to meet the unprecedented demands of this ever-evolving crisis.”

Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Stephanie Bloomingdale on the great work of IAMAW Local 1406 members:  “In times of emergency and distress, union workers step up and lead to help our communities. As the demand for respiratory machines rises, over 340 members of IAMAW Local 1406 in Madison quickly came together with management partners to ramp up production in the race against the clock to beat the ventilator shortage in order to get these life-saving machines to the doctors, nurses and health professionals that need them to treat and save patients. IAMAW Local 1406 members are some of the heroes fighting the COVID-19 pandemic behind the scenes in our manufacturing sector, making the needed medical supplies, PPE, or personal consumer products we all need as we face down the coronavirus pandemic together as one, united people.”  

“After struggling with the short notice of negotiating a contract extension, I am proud of our union body for gathering so quickly and agreeing on a contract with GE Healthcare,” said Local 1406 Shop Committee Chairperson Sheila Jourdan. “This contract extension shows we as union members can do our part in helping with this pandemic.”

“Our union couldn’t be more proud of the members of IAM Local 1406, who are on the frontlines as the world fights to contain the coronavirus pandemic,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway. “There are many people fighting for their lives right now. The ventilators our hard-working members produce could literally mean the difference between someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, or son coming out on the right side of this crisis. The members of IAM Local 1406 recognize that. As the proud union members they are, they will do whatever it takes to support their country and those in need around the world.”