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USW Salutes Cold War Patriots on National Day of Remembrance

October 23, 2020

October 23, 2020

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Industry News

This Oct. 30 marks the 12th anniversary of the National Day of Remembrance and the 20th anniversary of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA).

The U.S. Senate passed Resolution 741 designating Oct. 30 as a day to remember the sacrifices hundreds of thousands of workers, including uranium miners, millers and haulers, made by building the nation’s nuclear weapons.

This is also a day to remember current workers in the country’s nuclear weapons program and those cleaning up its nuclear and hazardous waste legacy at Department of Energy (DOE) sites.

Many atomic workers developed disabling or fatal illnesses as a result of their exposure to radiation, beryllium, hazardous chemicals and other dangerous substances at their sites. The federal government and its contractors did not tell them the hazards they faced doing their jobs.

When they became sick and applied for state workers’ compensation, these workers’ claims were often denied, and the federal government and its contractors fought against their claims.

In the late 1990s, groups of sick workers traveled to Washington, D.C., to educate Congress on the need for a federal program to compensate workers who developed serious illnesses through their exposure to radiation and other toxic substances at (DOE) nuclear weapons facilities and the uranium mining and processing industry.

Their advocacy, along with national media coverage and support of the workers’ unions, resulted in the congressional passage of EEOICPA, which President Clinton signed into law on Oct. 30, 2000.

One of the worker advocates, the late Janine Anderson, who worked at the K-25 plant at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, wanted the country to honor these civilian workers. She gathered petitions from across the country, asking the Senate to designate October 30 as a National Day of Remembrance for nuclear weapons and uranium workers.

In 2009, the first National Day of Remembrance was held. Anderson didn’t live to see it happen. She died earlier that year from cancer, caused by her work at K-25.

Cold War Patriots, a membership organization founded in 2008 to recognize and provide resources to the nuclear weapons and uranium worker community, is conducting a virtual ceremony to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance. To participate, please register for the event.