Union Supports Government Proposal to Help Ailing Workers

The Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers Union, spoke out in favor of the Clinton Administration's plan to provide compensation for ailing nuclear plant workers.

The Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers Union (PACE), has spoke out in favor of the Clinton Administration's call last week to provide compensation for nuclear plant workers who were in danger during the Cold War.

PACE represents workers at 11 DOE nuclear weapons facilities and two beryllium facilities.

"The Administration has made an historic announcement today by admitting that the DOE and its contractors poisoned workers in the process of building nuclear weapons, and that the government has an obligation to assure these workers receive compensation if they are sick or dying," said PACE Executive Vice President Robert E. Wages.

PACE said it supports the Administrations scientific and policy basis for building a legislative remedy for the 600,000 workers who built nuclear weapons in an "ultra-hazardous" industry.

"DOE and its contractors have historically placed production ahead of safety, and because DOE has been self-regulated and operated behind a veil of secrecy, the evidence demonstrates that workers have been forced to pay a high price," said James K. Phillips, PACE vice president for governmental affairs.

Although the union is the government has agreed to take responsibility and compensate workers, it still has some problems with the proposal.

The Administration proposal shifts the burden of proof on to the government for radiation related diseases at Paducah, Portsmouth and Oak Ridge K-25.

However, workers at all other DOE nuclear weapons sites -- in states such as Washington, Idaho, New Mexico and Colorado -- the burden of proof would shift to the worker to prove radiation-related illness.

PACE believes "this must be corrected."

Also, DOE has said it will begin advocating on behalf of workers to establish eligibility for claims for illness caused by toxic chemicals, heavy metals or silicosis.

DOE proposes to use state workers' compensation programs to pay these claims, however, PACE is skeptical about this idea.

"This is naive, if not unworkable. DOE has not established its credibility and independence to advocate for workers when they are liable for paying out compensation," according to PACE.

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