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Teachers/Students/ Zadroga Act/ Union

Nov 14, 2017 by

Branded in the memory of all who visited, worked or lived in Lower Manhattan in the wake of the World Trade Center mass murders, is the calculated,  devious and nauseatingly  soothing assurances of Christine Todd-Whitman, then head of the federal EPA, that the air at Ground Zero was qualitatively equal to that breathed by her own horses in her sprawling manor, which was good enough for her and any kids wanted some extra rosiness in their cheeks.

She didn’t put it quite that way, but she in effect gave the green light for kids to go to the Pile and build castles in the ashes, using their imaginations to think of the miserable hole as a welcoming sandbox, just as long as they didn’t get in the way of cleanup crews.

Todd-Whitman’s cynicism was much purer than the air on Liberty Street.

For many years it’s been known beyond doubt that the alarming spike in the incidence of cancers and respiratory disease evidenced by first-responders, laborers and others, is directly attributable to their presence in the area of the Twin Tower toxic ruins.

Now what has also been long suspected and come to light: students and teachers from schools in the vicinity at the time are being presently afflicted with life-threatening diseases that according to scientific literature are almost unheard-of in young adults. These include breast, colon, thyroid and bladder malignancies.

Under the Zadroga Act, these victims are among those eligible for treatment and compensation, but there has been little publicity given to them until now and many may not yet be aware of their entitlement.

They need to be told.  That’s not the job of unions, according to a large block of extremist acolytyes in government and the private sector, and they’re right that unions should mind their own business. The disagreement is whether it is the business of unions to get involved in such issues.

It is.

In New York City, the teachers union gathered and analyzed data that linked its members to sites where cancer clusters developed, notified them of their recourse, alerted PTAs and offered practical assistance. The union has a long history of this kind of activity.

Good thing, too, because the Department of Education displayed no interest in tracking its school-based employees in the contaminated neighborhood. In matters of no importance, the DOE is meticulous about tallying and memorializing. Does the general public realize that unions are not just about negotiating pay and work rules, although it unapologetically does that too?

The purpose of this letter is not to boost the unions, although that is an inevitable by-product of the facts. It is to apprise those students of 16 years ago who may be stricken with 9/11-related sickness, that they should explore their options under the Zadroga Act.

It will not reverse their ordeal, but it may lend some limited peace of mind.

Ron Isaac

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