Campus Notebook: Putting a Holt on Anthrax

Posted March 3, 2009 at 6:36pm

Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) introduced legislation Tuesday to create a commission to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks.

[IMGCAP(1)]The FBI announced last year that the prime suspect in the case was Bruce Ivins, an anthrax researcher who committed suicide in July. But Members have been skeptical of the evidence pointing to Ivins, calling it circumstantial and asking why the agency didn’t make an arrest sooner.

Holt’s legislation calls for a National Commission on the Anthrax Attacks Upon the United States, which would make recommendations on how the federal government should respond to future bioterrorism attacks.

“All of us — but especially the families of the victims of the anthrax attacks — deserve credible answers about how the attacks happened and whether the case really is closed,— Holt said. “The Commission, like the 9/11 Commission, would do that, and it would help American families know that the government is better prepared to protect them and their children from future bioterrorism attacks.—

The attacks killed five people and injured 17 who opened mail containing anthrax. Some of those letters were sent to Members of Congress, shutting down Congressional offices for weeks and exposing dozens to the substance. No one on Capitol Hill died.

Unionized Safety. Unions at the Library of Congress can now file grievances over safety issues, after a recent ruling from the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

Three years ago, the Library of Congress Professional Guild filed two grievances against the Library, one about the lack of a smoke detector in a Madison Building elevator machine room and another about a freight elevator that failed to go out of service during a fire emergency.

But the Library denied the grievance, claiming that the Office of Compliance was the only agency that could enforce safety standards. The dispute made it all the way to the three-person FLRA board.

Now, the Library has to post a notice to employees acknowledging the Guild’s right to file such grievances. Guild President Saul Schniderman said the union had filed 17 safety grievances since the Congressional Accountability Act passed in 1995.

“The guild has been advocating for fire safety at the Library of Congress since 1976 when we were founded,— said Nan Ernst, the chief steward who filed the two grievances. “We work collectively with the Office of Compliance but, when necessary, we use our union grievance to remedy hazards.—

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