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Tue Dec 29, 2015, 06:57 AM

New nuclear weapons and an attack on worker benefits [View all]


New nuclear weapons and an attack on worker benefits
December 27, 2015

By Rob Hotakainen, Lindsay Wise, Frank Matt and Samantha Ehlinger
McClatchy Washington Bureau

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a series examining the health problems that afflict the U.S. nuclear workforce as the government launches a $1 trillion plan to modernize the arsenal.

The most expensive nuclear bomb project in American history is gearing up in the Texas Panhandle.


It also has drawn objections from anti-proliferation groups and government watchdogs concerned that the redesign violates a 2010 pledge by the Obama administration not to develop any nuclear weapons with new capabilities.


At Pantex, where workers have the perilous task of taking apart and reassembling nuclear warheads, a proposal to slash medical coverage, prescription plans, sick leave and defined benefit pensions prompted more than 1,100 unionized employees to walk off the job in August.


“We all work with people that have contracted diseases from working (at the plant),” Richards said. “What you try to do is minimize your exposure. You hope the government is giving all the protection they can. And I really do believe they are doing everything they can to keep us protected. But at some point . . . you can’t minimize exposure to zero. The one thing they can do for us is provide good medical coverage.”


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