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Manufacturer 'let off the hook,' Flats union rep says

By Berny Morson, News Staff Writer

The head of the union that represents Rocky Flats workers said he was saddened by the verdict Tuesday that went against employees who were sickened by beryllium at the plant.

"It's a shame that the manufacturer has been let off the hook and that nobody is liable," said Tony DeMaiori, the president of United Steel Workers' Rocky Flats local.

DeMaiori was critical of Colorado's workers compensation system, which he said should have been quicker to compensate the beryllium victims. A better law might have made a suit unnecessary, he said.

The workers developed the lung disease by breathing toxic dust. At least 119 workers have the disease, but many more could develop symptoms later in life.

"This is killing them. They're carrying oxygen bottles," DeMaiori said.

The beryllium workers will be among those compensated up to $150,000 for diseases developed at nuclear-weapons plants under a program that begins in July. Also covered are Rocky Flats workers who developed cancer through contact with plutonium.

On July 19, the U.S. Department of Labor will hold meetings with workers to explain the program.

Sessions are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Double Tree, 8773 Yates Drive, Westminster, near the Sheridan Boulevard interchange on U.S. 36.

The government will open an office by the end of July to help workers fill out the paperwork.

Ray Malito, a 30-year Rocky Flats veteran, will head the office.

The office will be at 8758 Wolff Court, Westminster, Suite 210, Westminster, also near the Sheridan Boulevard interchange.

June 27, 2001

 
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