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  Public Employee Press

PEP May 2006
Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

Union drive wins back 9/11 health funds

DC 37’s 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 workers.

The money is part of the $125 million that DC 37 and elected officials have been fighting to restore since President Bush’s allies in Congress rescinded the money last summer.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 funds.

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.


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