In a letter sent to chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Howard McKeon (R-CA), United Steelworkers (USW) president Leo Gerard expressed his concerns over a recent bill being brought before the U.S. House of Representatives that would eliminate many health and safety standards at all Department of Energy weapon sites. His worries revolve around the effects this act will have on the safety of workers at affected facilities and on the citizens of neighboring communities that will be placed at greater risk of exposure to toxic materials being regularly released from these sites.
Gerard argues that the USW members who work on DOE projects face unique operational challenges and heightened threats to their health thus requiring safety precautions and protection specific to DOE worksites. The bill, however, will work to eliminate protections already in place and increase the threat of harm to workers, he says.
“This legislation would strip away the gains in radiation safety that have been made over the past half century,” Gerard wrote. “ This will result in today’s workers being our next generation of occupational disease victims.”
USW vice president Carol Landry echoes Gerard’s concerns stating that “We can’t afford to let the provisions in this bill take worker safety backwards, literally, by decades.” In response to the perceived threat to USW workers’ safety, USW leaders have partnered with Senate leaders and other White House officials to bring attention to the bill and its potential consequences.