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I just got a call this morning from the Santa Fé New Mexican Newspaper (our local paper). I've been selected to be honored as someone who's made a difference in the community. Wow...an honor needless to say, not to mention a very pleasant surprise.
Now the rest of the story--the reason for this recognition. Perhaps you've not heard, but we (the workers of Los Alamos National Laboratory) finally won a big one!
The Laboratory has agreed to pay the laid off workers (those who joined the organization I became the founding president of in the aftermath of the 1995 layoffs--CLER) nearly $3.5 million to settle all claims related to the 1995 layoffs (that's about $30K per claimant), plus some reinstatement of laid off workers and some added remedy for lost benefits (plus plaintiff's attorney fees). The total payout is likely to approach $5-$7 million when the dust settles. NEVER in the history of the Laboratory has there been such a substantive victory for workers or the surrounding communities of northern New Mexico. Surrounding communities were beneficiaries as well because of the dramatic increase in LANL/UC emphasis on surrounding community outreach, economic development, and philanthropic spending. This was in direct response to our three year public campaign to make UC/LANL a more responsible employer and better neighbor to northern New Mexico.
Not only was the worker-related portion of the remedy noted above (a significant part being attributed to Hispanic claims of discrimination) the largest settlement ever obtained from LANL, it was the largest worker settlement ever negotiated for a U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance claim. Thus this is certainly a historic event from many many standpoints.
It's interesting to note that in this week's (June 15th, page 8) issue of Time Magazine, a struggle similar to ours at LANL is under way. That dispute is at Savannah River in South Carolina, but unlike the Savannah River dispute, the only national publication of any notoriety that paid any attention our situation here in Los Alamos was Hispanic Magazine. Frankly, if it hadn't been for the caring of Hispanic Magazine, I doubt I'd be sending this message today.
In addition to the worker remedy, the Laboratory will, in the not too distant future I hope, also have to bring its personnel practices in line with those of the University of California. This includes granting LANL workers the right to form independent employee organizations--even unionizing if they so desire. These are rights LANL workers have never had, contrary to their University and Laboratory counterparts within the State of California.
This past May 8th we made history as well. For the first time ever a joint legislative hearing was held in Santa Fé with members of the New Mexico and California State legislatures. The Senate majority leader of the State of California, along with the Assembly (House) Budget Chair for the State of California (controlling a $17 Billion budget), joined several New Mexico legislators at the capital complex in Santa Fé, including our own Senate President Pro Temp, Senate Majority Whip, and Speaker of the House. I was invited to address said panel as a voice for CLER and workers. Director John Brown, a representative of the UC Board of Regents, and a representative from the University Office of the President also addressed the legislative panel. The revelations made public that day struck a visible cord with many legislators. It seemed as though finally, after more than 50 years, many long-festering concerns were allowed to come to surface. Hopefully compromise, resolution, and healing will now follow...hopefully seeds have now been sown that will lead to more a responsible/equitable corporate culture for LANL. CM
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