Changes Will Put Nuclear Workers, Public Health and Safety at Risk
Washington, DC—The Metal Trades Department and its affiliated unions strongly oppose HR 4310 House Armed Services Committee’s 2013 National Defense Authorization bill—especially provisions changing the nuclear weapons worker health and safety programs.
The Metal Trades points to objections raised by Dr. Peter Winokur, Ph.D, Chairman, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, that proposed changes are based on a misunderstanding of research into work practices at nuclear laboratories.
Provisions included in the pending bill would shift the entire safety & health program to NNSA and eliminate current DOE worker health and safety standards and enforcement, substituting ineffective standards and “performance-based” oversight.
Contrary to claims that the bill would simply subject NNSA facilities to the same requirements as those under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the bill would eliminate workplace inspections and strip away protection against retaliation for raising safety and health concerns. It would eliminate any requirements for employers to record and report injuries and illnesses.
According to Dr. Peter Winokur the proposed changes to health and safety oversight at the nation’s nuclear facilities are based on a misunderstanding by the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee’s of the research and testimony of Dr. Shank, Co-Chair of the Committee to Review the Quality of the Management and of the Science and Engineering Research at the DOE’s National Security Laboratories. Dr. Winokur maintains that Dr. Shank focused his review on the need for laboratories to do research more efficiently and effectively, and how to improve morale at the laboratories. His committee did not review the high-hazard complex nuclear operations or any associated consequences of operations.
“[T]his testimony should not be used as the basis to argue against the need for independent oversight or eliminate transactional oversight at defense nuclear facilities,” Dr. Winokur asserted in a May 7, 2012 letter to Hon. Loretta Sanchez, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Committee on Armed Services, Dr. Winokur is opposed to the proposed switch from “transitional oversight” to “performance-based oversight”.
We applaud the President’s commitment to job creation—especially in the area of infrastructure and transportation improvements. Although it was not mentioned directly, we believe that the initiatives outlined in the President’s words can and should embrace the concepts behind the American Marine Highway because the President and his Administration, along with congressional leaders from both parties have already endorsed the concept; because the federal investment requirements are relatively miniscule while the job creation potential is enormous; because the time is right; because the need is great; because the conditions are favorable; and because it will mean continued and expanded employment in shipbuilding and maritime occupations nationwide; because it could also result in sustaining a critical national asset—the Avondale shipyard in New Orleans.
Moving forward aggressively on the American Marine Highway will immediately inject new energy and resources into our economy and immediately result in new hiring in good paying middle class jobs.
The unions of the Metal Trades Department look forward to working with the President and his Transportation Department to bring this concept to fruition.
One of the most immediate results of that initiative can and should be a new and brighter outlook for employment security for the skilled men and women who can and who should build the ships to ply that American Marine Highway employed at Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans. When the White House and Congress begin fleshing out this jobs bill we urge that they make certain to include the American Marine Highway as an integral part of the plan.
Testimony of Jeff Faux, Distinguished Fellow, Economic Policy Institute in a hearing before the subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, US House of Representatives.
Mr. Faux’s testimony discusses de-industrialization and national defense.
That the nation’s industrial base is vital to our national security was for most of our history a core assumption of American economic policy. The manufacturing sector had been a driver of our prosperity, a guarantor of our independence, and the basis
of our rise to world leadership. Had the United States not had the capacity to become the “arsenal of democracy,” the Second World War might well have ended differently.
The war’s end left the U.S. as the dominant manufacturing power in the world for some three decades. Our ability to provide our military with the most advanced weaponry and our civilians with the most advanced consumer goods were two sides of the same policy coin—with both sides crucial to the United States prevailing in the Cold War.
But, as we all know, over the last several decades the American industrial base has dramatically weakened. Economists debate the exact causes, but the decline in U.S. manufacturing has been thoroughly documented, and widely acknowledged by
both policymakers and the public. We have been running trade deficits in manufacturing for over thirty years, relentlessly off-shoring production and steadily losing ground in our capacity to produce cutting edge technologies.
Yet, the threat to our national security has not been reflected in our economic policies, or the way in which we are organized to meet the national security challenges of the future.
Click on the link below to read Mr. Faux’s complete testimony.
The Honorable James L. Oberstar
Chairman Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
2365 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. Chairman:
On behalf of the 17 national and International unions that make up the Metal Trades Department, I am asking for your strong support in retaining the provision in H.R. 5629 that will require future offshore energy facilities operating in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to be built in the United States.
The Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents the majority of the shipbuilding workers in America and I can tell you we are facing shrinking budgets and declining orders for ships from the Navy and Coast Guard and we have been actively pursuing construction opportunities in the energy sector to sustain our facilities and skilled work force. The Navy has reduced its 30 year shipbuilding plan by some 45 previously planned ships. The construction of offshore drilling platforms, wind turbines, and wave energy facilities ideally match the skills and experience employed by shipyards and their suppliers in the construction of steel vessels. Without the provision in your bill, this American work will all be exported to foreign shipyards and American shipyards will continue to lose its highly skilled workforce and place the future of the shipbuilding facilities at risk. One of our shipyards facing imminent closure and shutdown is Avondale shipyard in New Orleans, Louisiana, where some 7000 Gulf Coast families are facing the loss of their good paying middle class jobs. Our Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi faces an uncertain future as Northrop Grumman just announced that it was no longer going to be in the shipbuilding business and plans to either sell its shipbuilding sector, or spin it off as a stand-alone business. The shipbuilding economic impact from Ingalls and Avondale shipyard to the Gulf Coast region is 12.6 billion dollars- more than six times the economic impact of losing the entire Gulf Coast seafood industry that is in the nightly news. We have an opportunity to create middle class manufacturing jobs with these provisions and to begin to recover from the worst recession in modern history.
I am sure you have heard from the rich and powerful oil and gas industry. They are lobbying Congress to allow the continued use of Communist Chinese builds, like BP used in the overhaul of the failed Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer. I am asking that you listen to the lone voice of the American worker who doesn’t have a rich and powerful Capitol Hill Lobbyist and to pass this legislation with the provisions on behalf of America’s shipyard workers. Commercial work is essential in saving these six national strategic defense facilities and keeping the last bastion of America’s heavy manufacturing industry from becoming extinct.
Your efforts to ensure enactment of the provision to require that offshore energy facilities be American made is critical to saving and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S., to ensuring the highest safety standards in the construction of such facilities, and to fostering American energy independence and our national security.
Thank you for your consideration of this critical provision for America’s shipbuilding workers,
Ronald E. Ault
The following unions signed on in support of two letters sent to Congress urging support of Title XI Ship Loan Guarantee program and limiting the leasing of foreign built ships.
The Department urges its members to send your own letters to Congress on these two important causes. View the Department’s letters.