No one should have to work in Juneau's 'plywood palace'

Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2007

After reading the My Turn column submitted by Department of Administration Commissioner Annette Kreitzer regarding the Department of Labor building ("A vow to fix 'plywood palace,'" July 9) and hearing other recent media comments by Department of Labor and Workforce Development management, I could not stay silent.

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While I appreciate that the current administration inherited this problem, I don't find the excuse-making at all palatable. By Kreitzer's own admission, no one should have to work in that building considering its condition. Why are we still working in it?

The vow to fix the problem is fine; it's about time. However, to insist that workers stay in the building while the fix is being done is unreasonable. The debris from the work on the building is in the air we, the employees, breathe. The mold has been in this building for more than a year. I don't really care that there are no federal guidelines and that there is no "exact science." When more than 40 employees exhibit symptoms, then there is no excuse for not taking fast action. Chalking it up to pre-existing conditions is a slap in our faces and leads me to believe the administration is not serious about fixing the problem.

The media has quoted the deputy commissioner as saying the air inside the building is safer than the air outside. The latest press release from our commissioner states that our agency "is committed to workplace safety and health for all workers across Alaska - it is our highest priority." I guess that pertains to all workers except the ones who work for him. At least one Labor employee has been evacuated to another building for her health. Shouldn't all of us get the same courtesy?

All we have ever asked for is to be moved into another building until the work is done and the risk to our health no longer exists. And all we have gotten is rhetoric.

If the contract with the building owner is deemed more important than the health of the workers, then maybe a class action lawsuit will get the state of Alaska's attention. I refuse to be considered expendable.

Virginia Waterhouse

Juneau



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