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WSLC’s Johnson hails new law protecting Hanford workers

OLYMPIA (March 8, 2018) — Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, released the following statement this morning:

At the close of the legislative session, the governor begins to sign bills into law that have made the torturous journey to get to his desk. Over the past five years, precious few bills supporting working people have made it to the signature phase. This year is different. What a difference an election can make.

Every now and then a bill gets signed into law that grabs your heart. That happened yesterday. HB 1723, a bill that presumes that illnesses contracted by clean-up workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are occupational in nature, was signed into law. Before this, the U.S. Department of Energy and its third-party administrator, Penzer, routinely denied more than half of all claims submitted to them under the workers’ compensation statute. Claims denied include beryllium poison, lung cancer, other cancers, and occupational dementia.

From this day forward, these illnesses will be presumed to be occupational in nature. And rightfully so. These brave men and women at Hanford are cleaning up the most toxic site in the western hemisphere dealing with a toxic chemical brew of known and unknown chemical vapors and radiation.

I want to thank Representative Larry Haler (R-Richland), Senator Karen Keiser (D-Kent), Representative Mike Sells (D-Everett) and Representative Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle) for their sponsorship of this bill, and Governor Jay Inslee for signing the most important workers’ compensation bill in the last quarter century.

But mostly I want to thank the brave Hanford workers, Nick Bumpous of UA Local 598, and WSLC legislative staffers Joe Kendo, Eric González and Graciela Nuñez for bringing forth this bill and tirelessly working for its passage.

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