On Friday during a coronavirus press briefing, President Donald Trump told reporters that he had moved to invoke the Defense Production Act in order to force General Motors (GM) to manufacture ventilators.
The decision comes amidst a severe shortage of ventilators, which are potentially life-saving tools used to treat respiratory failure, a symptom sometimes experienced in severe cases of coronavirus.
Mike Herron, the United Auto Workers chairman of the Spring Hill GM plant, called the decision “ridiculous,” arguing that GM had already been prepping to produce ventilators without being compelled to by law.
Nevertheless, Herron said he hoped that the Spring Hill plant was chosen as one of the facilities to produce ventilators, adding that his fellow United Auto Workers (UAW) members would be “honored” for the opportunity to do “their patriotic duty.”
What is the Defense Production Act?
The Defense Production Act is a federal law instituted during the Korean War that give the president the authority to, by law, compel businesses to manufacture particular items deemed necessary for national defense. The act has seen use both in and out of wartime, and has been used more than 50 times since its inception.
“GM’s not looking to make money on this”
“GM has been in the process of readying a facility to be able to make ventilators - there's no need for anybody to force [them to do that], GM offered to help right up front,” Herron said. “It's ludicrous that [Trump is] trying to portray this like he's got to force GM to do this now... it's absolutely insane.”
Herron said that GM had been working “around the clock” to move to make ventilators since the coronavirus pandemic began, and that it was “ludicrous” for Trump to signal that GM was unwilling to do so.
Despite his disagreements with GM being compelled to make ventilators by law, Herron did say he hoped the Spring Hill plant was ultimately chosen for the job.
“I hope that we get the red light to go ahead and be one of those facilities that gets the chance to build [ventilators],” Herron said. “I got people that would be glad to volunteer and would be honored as their patriotic duty to make ventilators.
"That's the way that General Motors and the UAW thinks. I come from a hometown of Flint, Michigan, where during World War I and World War II, they converted several plants to make everything from tanks to machine guns. So it's not like this is a foreign topic to this great American company.”
GM has not yet announced which facility will manufacture ventilators, however, with the Spring Hill plant being GM’s single largest facility in North America, it certainly remains a possibility.