-MORE TO COME SOON-
Michael Cork, Nick Locke, Erin Thayer (University of Washington, School of Public Health). 2019
Executive Summary: Located in Southeastern Washington, the Hanford nuclear site was built by the federal government in 1943 to manufacture plutonium for atomic bombs, which would later be used during World War II. Production continued until 1990 when the site transitioned to clean up; a process still continuing to this day. Nearly thirty years later, cleanup is nowhere near completed, and Hanford remains one of the most contaminated worksites in the world. Every day, Hanford workers are in danger of exposure to toxic radioactive chemicals.
The Hanford Presumption Law of 2018 helped lift the burden on Hanford workers applying for workers’ compensation. The law presumes that certain respiratory diseases, cancers, and neurodegenerative disorders for Hanford workers hours were caused by toxic exposures related to working at the Hanford nuclear site.
Our purpose was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Hanford Presumption Law regarding whether the law eased the burden of proof of causation placed on workers and the number of workers’ compensation claims filed, approved, and denied. Our methods included 1) conducting a literature review, 2) examining a public records request from Washington State Labor & Industries (L&I), 3) interviewing former Hanford workers and their spouses, 4) interviewing Hanford union representatives, and 5) communicating with a representative from Washington State L&I.
We found that a coalition of Hanford workers, their families, Hanford unions, the advocacy agency Hanford Challenge, and state lawmakers developed the law based on a similar presumption clause in the 1997 Firefighters Bill (a Washington State law), which attempted to rectify systemic barriers that workers at Hanford faced filing for workers’ compensation. The law passed and went into effect in June 2018, but in December of 2018, the federal government (United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Energy (DOE)) filed a complaint against the state of Washington, claiming that the presumption law violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In March of 2019, both the federal government and the state of Washington filed motions for summary judgment in the Eastern Washington U.S. District Court.
One successful collaboration between Hanford workers, Hanford unions, Washington State Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and DOE was securing funding for the Hanford Workforce Engagement Center (HWEC). The HWEC helps Hanford workers and their families with occupational health concerns, including assistance with the workers’ compensation process.
For full report, click here.
For PowerPoint Presentation of Findings, click here.