On Saturday, June 29, members and leadership of the American Federation of Government Employees rallied to demand change at the Goodfellow Federal Complex in St. Louis, where cancer-causing chemicals have been a concern for decades.
“No justice, no peace,” chanted the protestors, a group that included AFGE Local 1336 president Wil Grant.
The union filed grievances on April 12 regarding unsafe and unhealthy working conditions at the federal complex at 4300 Goodfellow Blvd., which holds about 2,400 employees who work for the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Agriculture Department, and the General Services Administration.
The union requested the immediate removal of all bargaining unit employees from the complex, with employees who are eligible working from home and other moved to a safe, clean facility. The union also requested hazard pay and provision of health screenings by a physician of the employee’s choice to determine if there are any health issues.
On June 25, management denied all requests, but said a testing program to implement for impacted employees is being developed.
The conflict stems from an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that was conducted in July 2016. OSHA noted while conducting the audit that it issued “seven serious citations” that include hazardous contamination.
OSHA found traces of lead, asbestos, and other known cancer-causing agents. It also noted that GSA Public Building Services “did not take adequate action to protect tenants, contractors, and visitors from hazards at the Goodfellow complex due to ineffective environmental management programs, policies, and guidance.”
From January 2002, through December 31, 2016, the GSA Public Building Services conducted 33 studies costing $1.9 million to sample and provide an analysis of the condition of the building. It found some of the same hazards that are reported in the OSHA Report.
GSA Public Building Services’ approach of conducting duplicative studies instead of taking action to remediate the hazardous contamination or prevent access to contaminated areas endangered the health of people at the complex and wasted taxpayer money, according to OSHA.
After its own studies, GSA Public Building Services was aware of the environmental hazards, but did not inform tenants, contractors, and visitors. This violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which requires federal agencies to be free of hazards, and the policy requires the agency to access the unsafe condition within 30 days.
The facility’s management knowingly exposed employees to hazardous contaminants, according to OSHA.
The union also has appealed to U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO). In response, Clay urged the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to launch a congressional investigation into GSA Public Building Services, stating that it “failed to protect the health and safety of St. Louis’s federal workers.”