Tuesday, August 31, 2004

NIOSH Reorganization: Bad Idea, According to Everyone Except CDC

The Washington Post covered the debate over CDC's controversial reorganization of NIOSH today. Although CDC Director Julie Gerberding argues that "the change will increase NIOSH's value by bringing efficiencies that will free up administrative funds for research," everyone else in the world seems to disagree:

The move has drawn protests from virtually every occupational health and safety organization in the country, including some representing labor and others more aligned with corporate management -- groups that usually are at policy loggerheads but that have shared interests in good science.

Opposition also crosses party lines. Letters opposing the change have been signed by every living former NIOSH director back to the Nixon administration and by assistant secretaries for labor and health from both Republican and Democratic administrations.

"This may be the first issue in the last decade that all the worker safety and health stakeholder groups agree on," said Frank White, a Reagan administration labor official who is now vice president of Organization Resources Counselors Inc., an international management and human resources consulting firm that advises on occupational health issues for 150 large corporations. "It's hard to see a reorganization like this making NIOSH more effective."

Gerberding has met with opposition groups, but according to UAW health and safety director Frank Mirer, She expressed real concern and passion for NIOSH....But in the end, he said, "the message to us was 'Get over it. This is a done deal.'"

Republican Senator Arlen Specter (PA),chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the CDC, disagrees and plans to hold hearings on the change before it's implemented.