drive wins back 9/11 health funds
nine-month drive to restore federal medical funds for the heroes of 9/11 made
substantial progress March 8 when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released
a plan to distribute $75 million for treatment of injured rescue and recovery
The money is part of the $125 million that DC 37 and elected
officials have been fighting to restore since President Bushs allies in
Congress rescinded the money last summer.
In July 2005, the union bused
45 rescue workers from DC 37 locals to Washington to lobby for reinstating the
On Feb. 28, a delegation led by DC 37 Safety and Health Dept.
Director Lee Clarke pressed the case again before the U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on National Security.
City Architect Ron Vega, the treasurer
of Technical Guild Local 375, lent his impassioned expertise to the topic as he
spoke about the Herculean effort of city workers at the disaster site.
He pointed to the personal costs now being borne by the rescue workers: How
many scars do you suppose we carry, we who worked there, for 10 hours a day, seven
days a week, for 10 months?
As an employee of the Dept. of Design
and Construction, which managed the recovery effort, Mr. Vega worked at Ground
Zero for 300 days. He was one of the thousands of workers who pitched in to do
the horrendous work that had to be done. Their response was, in his words, immediate,
overwhelming, and fearless.
We led the fight for this money
because it is our responsibility as a union to make sure our injured workers get
proper care, said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts. The $75
million will be needed in the period ahead as other workers become ill. We have
already lost three of our members to 9/11-related diseases EMTs Tim Keller
and Felix Hernandez and Paramedic Deborah
Reeve. Hundreds more DC 37 first responders are in the 9/11 medical monitoring
program, she said.