Two USW Members to Serve on Worker Health Advisory Board

Two USW members will sit on the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health when it meets in November to discuss issues concerning administration of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA).

Duronda Pope and Jim Key will represent the claimant community for a two-year term. Pope, who is the USW Emergency Response Team director, has been on the board since its first meeting in 2016. Key, who is president of the USW Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC) and a vice president at large for Local 8-550, will be starting his first term.

“It was a pretty big honor to be on the first advisory board,” Pope said, noting that it is important for labor to have a voice. “We know how operations work and the reality from the shop floor.”

The EEOICPA program, which the Department of Labor (DOL) administers, provides compensation and medical benefits to sick nuclear workers who have diagnosed medical conditions tied to their exposure to toxic substances at nuclear facilities covered under the Act.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 amended EEOICPA to create the advisory board, which has representatives from the scientific, medical and claimant communities, and includes a designated federal officer.

The board advises the Secretary of Labor on technical aspects of the EEOICPA program, such as the agency’s site exposure matrices, medical guidance for claims examiners and evidence requirements for claims related to lung disease.

It also reviews the work of industrial hygienists, staff physicians and consulting physicians and their reports to ensure quality, objectivity and consistency, as well as reviewing claims and changes in the claims procedure manual.

Worker experience

Pope worked as a chemical operator and laboratory technician for 25 years at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant outside Denver. The plant manufactured plutonium detonators, or triggers, used in nuclear bombs from 1952 until 1989. Pope holds the distinction of being the last union member employed at the plant before decommissioning, decontaminating and demolishing was completed in 2005.

Key has worked at the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, Ky., since 1974. His plant used to enrich uranium initially for nuclear weapons and then provided fuel for nuclear power plants. Now, the site is undergoing decontamination and decommissioning work.

As an AEWC member, Key lobbied numerous times in Washington, D.C., for federal funding of the EEOICPA program and the Worker Health Protection Program that provides low dose CT scans.

“I’ve been working behind the scene for many years and have been an advocate assisting sick workers and helping them get compensation,” Key said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate and to be a persuasive voice for those who were wrongly injured or exposed.”

Pictured: Top -- Duronda Pope; Bottom -- Jim Key with Former International Vice President at-large Carol Landry.

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