(This is reprinted from Union Labor News, May 2020)


SMART expertise produces much-needed masks.


After two months of coronavirus, most of us have become connoisseurs of face masks. The best ones achieve a good seal with an embedded aluminum strip that crosses the bridge of the nose.


Where do those come from?


Thirteen million of them have come from unions. The idea for making them came from the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) which proceeded to get more than two dozen union contractors to donate the material.


Hallie Jennerman and Mike Mooney from SMART Local 18 in Wisconsin indicated that 201,000 of them were shipped out in Wisconsin. “They’ve gone to every nook and cranny of the state,” said Jennerman. “Places like Superior, Rhinelander, Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and towns I’ve never heard of.”


They’ve had orders from 25 pieces to 25,000 largely from hospitals, EMTs, doctors, firefighters, police, land homes for seniors.


More than 2,700 volunteers and groups “are doing the hard work” of sewing the masks and the metal pieces together. One such group in Wisconsin is called the “Masked Warriors.”


“We pick up and distribute from our main office in Waukesha,” Jennerman said. “We try to hand deliver them whenever we can.”


On the day ULN talked to Jennerman 12,000 masks had shipped. “We thought it was going to slow down but it hasn’t,” he said.


Jennerman said that feedback has been phenomenal. The International has set up a hotline for requests.


No, you can’t buy them. They’re free.