| Article published January 23, 2002|
is leery of beryllium plant uniform contract
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A union representing
a Toledo uniform-cleaning service said it is worried the health of
workers will be at risk if the company washes clothes from Brush
Wellman, a local beryllium manufacturer.
Services has been talking to officials at Brush about washing its
company-provided uniforms. The plant in Elmore now launders its own
Both companies say they do not have an agreement,
but they are evaluating whether the clothes can and should be
laundered by Aramark.
That worries some of the 150 members of
Local 323 Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees
who work at the plant. They say they are concerned Aramark has not
given them enough information about negotiations with Brush, and
they worry their health will be in danger if uniforms with beryllium
on them are washed at the plant.
"We’re very concerned for
the safety of our members," said Karen Burnett, an international
representative for UNITE. "We are looking into it and trying to talk
to the company."
Beryllium is a lightweight metal used in the
defense, automotive, and electronics industries. Beryllium dust can
cause an incurable, fatal lung disease if inhaled. Brush Wellman
processes beryllium, long used in nuclear weapons.
workers said they are worried that beryllium dust would leave the
dryers through the vents and expose workers, and that workers who
touch the clothes might be exposed to beryllium.
said she isn’t sure if union members would refuse to wash the
uniforms. "Those are issues we feel we need to get addressed," she
Derek Longshore, a spokesman at Aramark’s California
headquarters, said in a written statement that the company hired an
independent occupational health expert to study the safety risks
before it considered taking on Brush as a client. The decision
whether to clean the uniforms will be made after the study is done,
"Our employees’ safety is of the utmost concern to
us and we would never take on any business that would endanger our
employees," he said.
Mr. Longshore said the company has
discussed the situation with workers and assured them no decision
has been made. Ms. Burnett and several workers said the company
didn’t tell employees until after the potential contract was made
Amy Ryder, director of the Cleveland office of Ohio’s
largest environmental group, Ohio Citizen Action, said there is
reason to be concerned. She said her agency studied the homes and
cars of beryllium workers and found that beryllium is carried off
site, so it is logical to assume there will be beryllium on the
uniforms that could be left in washers and dryers.
there’s absolutely a risk to those workers," she said.
Patrick Carpenter, a spokesman for Cleveland-based Brush Wellman,
Inc., said the company believes Aramark can launder the clothing
safely and said the company might be able to do it more efficiently
than Brush Wellman.
He released a statement that said:
"Aramark uses proven, highly modern technology that allows it to
launder clothing from many different industries in a cost-effective,
safe, and environmentally responsible manner."
"We have to be
convinced they can do it in a safe and responsible way," Mr.
Carpenter said. "They have a long and distinguished