Featured Article: 3M, Under Attack From White House, Pushes Back
3M Co. MMM -2.59% pushed back against criticism from President Trump of its work to get N95 masks to health-care workers in the U.S., intensifying conflict between the administration and U.S. manufacturers racing to meet urgent demand for medical equipment.
Chief Executive Mike Roman said 3M is raising domestic production, importing masks from its plant in China and taking action against price gouging on masks that medical workers need to treat patients infected with the new coronavirus.
“We in our company are doing everything we can,” Mr. Roman said in an interview.
President Trump on Thursday invoked the Defense Production Act, which could force 3M to manufacture as many N95 masks as the Federal Emergency Management Agency determines are needed. “We’re not happy with 3M,” Mr. Trump said at a briefing on Friday.
While 3M has maintained substantial mask production in the U.S., other companies moved output abroad years ago. U.S. hospitals and suppliers said importing during the pandemic has been slow and expensive. Airports are short-staffed, and some countries have restricted exports of medical supplies and raw materials to fight the virus locally.
City officials said regular suppliers, including W.W. Grainger Inc. and Fastenal Co., don’t have enough masks to meet the massive need for workers in hospitals, emergency services and other city jobs. City officials estimate they will need 30 million masks every four weeks. They have pleaded with 3M to sell directly to the city, offering to send tractor-trailers to 3M plants to pick up pallets of masks, said a senior city official. 3M declined, the official said.
3M said it is working with six large health-care distributors and FEMA to send products where the need is highest. “Those are the most efficient, effective ways to get products to the health-care workers,” Mr. Roman said.
In desperation, procurers for the city and its public hospitals are striking deals with unfamiliar suppliers. Procurers have been inundated by calls and emails from brokers and companies promising masks, some marked up as much as 1,000%, the senior city official said.
Prices that U.S. government agencies and public hospitals are paying for masks have spiked in recent weeks, according to contracting-data provider GovSpend. N95s are selling for $3.59 to $6.89 each, compared with between 86 cents and $1.20 before the crisis…