Local 1-689 on its Way to Becoming Regional Training Center for Atomic Workers

Local Union (LU) 1-689 President Herman Potter’s dream has always been to have an East Coast training center at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup site in Piketon, Ohio, that is similar to the Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response (HAMMER) Training Center at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington State.

“Twenty years ago the local union discussed moving into doing training and it grew from there,” Herman said. “Through the years we gained a support system.”

This support includes the USWTMC, which obtains federal government grants to fund the local union’s health and safety training for its members, the community, DOE sites and other USW DOE sites; community leaders; vocational schools; the City of Piketon; contractors; DOE and federal legislators. Herman and Local 1-689 worked hard over the years to establish relationships with each of these groups.

“Ten or more years ago, me and one of the Pike County council members, Jennifer Chandler, had the idea of establishing a regional training center in order to encourage reindustrialization and bring companies into the site,” Herman said. “If DOE releases clean land on the site and there is infrastructure for re-industrialization, that puts us in a position to grow.”

The gaseous diffusion plant ceased operations in May 2001, and since then, workers at the former plant have been engaged in extensive environmental cleanup of the site.

Building Training Credentials

Herman said the local union began doing Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training in 1989, and in the last seven years has conducted OSHA, safety representative and industrial hygiene training with the help of the USWTMC and contractors.

Marybeth Potter, a LU 1-689 member and training coordinator with the USW Tony Mazzocchi Center (USWTMC), said many of the LU 1-689 worker-trainers provide training for other USW-represented industrial and nuclear sites, DOE sites, as well as the community training. They also are considered OSHA trainers for the USWTMC and train other trainers.

In addition, the site has a robotics initiative and the local union is in the process of partnering with DOE, TMC and Sandia National Labs to conduct robotic safety training.

“I think we have a progressive local union. We push every opportunity we have to ensure work at this site by maintaining the quality and skills of our membership,” Herman said.

PICTURED: USW Local Union 1-689 President Herman Potter. Photo by Mike Hancock, USW Local Union 9-562 retiree.

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