Sunday, September 19, 2004

More on NIOSH Reorganization: "Trust Us"

MSNBC (via the Atlanta Business Review) published an article about the controversy over the proposed NIOSH reorganziation, highlighting the letter sent to CDC Director Julie Gerberding from five former labor and health administrators, and quoting former (Carter Administration)OSHA director Eula Bingham about why it's bad:
Eula Bingham, one of the authors of the letter and a former assistant secretary of labor, said the changes could hurt worker safety and are part of an effort to weaken NIOSH.

"I think it's the wrong thing to do, to submerge NIOSH and not let it be a national institute," said Bingham, a professor of environmental health at The University of Cincinnati.
Gerberding called a meeting to pacify the angry mob, which didn't impress UAW safety and health director Frank Mirer:
Because of the level of concern, CDC officials called a "stakeholders meeting" at the Hay Adams Hotel in Washington on Aug. 10. Franklin Mirer, director of Health and Safety for United Auto Workers, said he was one of about 30 people who attended the meeting. Participants were guided by a moderator and he said he didn't feel as if his concerns about NIOSH understaffing and research planning were heard.

"Their answer was, 'trust us, and get over it,' " he said.

Gerberding was unavailable for comment. But she sent a letter to the meeting's participants dated Aug. 27 that promised to keep NIOSH's headquarters in Washington. She also agreed to increase funding for the National Occupational Research Agenda by $1 million next year, include references to workers as partners in the reorganization plan and consider modernizing NIOSH's Cincinnati and Pittsburgh offices.

"I and the entire CDC executive leadership Board are absolutely committed to supporting NIOSH's success and its impact on preventing work related injuries, illnesses and deaths," Gerberding wrote.
Gerberding insists that the reorganization will take place on October 1, although the Senate Committee that provides CDC's funding won't be happy. As reported last week, the Senate Senate Appropriations Committee passed an appropriations bill ordering CDC not to go ahead with the reorganization. That bill still has to survive a vote of the entire Senate, then a conference with the House of Representatives, whose bill contains no such language.

Stay tuned.