MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.
BOSTON — Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced on Monday that the city of Boston has signed a contract with the last remaining garment manufacturer in the city, Sterlingwear of Boston, to produce much needed personal protective equipment for first responders.
The third-generation family-run business in East Boston will produce up to 150,000 medical gowns for Boston’s first responders and front-line workers.
“During these challenging times, I am pleased that the City of Boston has been able to support a long-time, locally owned business, while producing needed, high-quality PPE to support Boston’s first responders,” Walsh said. “We will continue to support our local and small businesses that employ our residents and fuel our neighborhoods.”
Shortages of PPE and medical supplies could persist for years without strategic government intervention, according to officials from health care and manufacturing industries.
Hospitals and first responders, including fire departments that operate ambulances, had put out calls to anyone, including construction companies, to donate any masks or other medical equipment they are not using.
"As a family-owned company now in its third generation Sterlingwear of Boston is no stranger to making high-quality garments for our nation's heroes," said Frank Fredella, CEO and owner of Sterlingwear of Boston. "We're immensely proud to be putting our years of experience in the garment industry to work by manufacturing critically needed PPE for frontline workers during this pandemic. It is fitting that Bostonians will be wearing PPE made right here in their city. We hope they'll wear them with the same pride we take in making them."
The company has been making military uniforms for almost every branch of the U.S. military for 55 years from their East Boston factory. Now, Sterlingwear of Boston is expected to manufacture medical gowns for small and local businesses, including community health centers and assisted living and nursing homes.
The textile company was set to close after the federal government ended a 45-year contract to manufacture over 1 million traditional U.S. Navy wool peacoats earlier this year.
The peacoat has been around since the 1800s where the Dutch navy used the heavy woolen jacket to keep warm at sea. The name peacoat originated from the Dutch word ‘pije,’ which in Dutch, translates to ‘a coat made from coarse wool fabric.’
Boston has created a platform to help businesses source the PPE and cleaning supplies they will be required to have available to ensure the safety of employees and customers as industries reopen.
“The work of garment workers can often go unnoticed, but we’re thankful to the Greater Boston Labor Council and Mayor Walsh for working with us and Sterlingwear of Boston to highlight the important work that our members do in the needle trades,” said Warren Pepicelli, international executive vice president of New England Joint Board of UNITE HERE. “This is an important example of why we should value manufacturing work and what is possible when we put our neighbors back to work.”
UNITE HERE is a labor union that represents 300,000 working people across Canada and the U.S.
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