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Environmental Protection Agency Union fights back over artificial water fluoridation

EPA scientists have a right to express opinions about the disposal of toxic waste into public drinking water for artificial water Fluoridation

United States Environmental Protection Agency Scientists fight back about their right to express their opinions on the artificial fluoridation of public water supplies.

P.O. BOX 76082

August 7, 1998


SUBJECT: Grievance
FROM: J. William Hirzy, Senior Vice-President

Cynthia C. Dougherty, Director
Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water

This is a grievance pursuant to Article VII of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between this union and the Agency.

BACKGROUND  The professional bargaining unit represented by this union includes, among other employees, all non-supervisory scientists in your Office and those in the Office of Water as a whole. On July 2, 1997, members of this union, which holds exclusive representational rights for the professional bargaining unit at EPA Headquarters, held a meeting. The meeting was very well attended, notice having been given to the membership of a seminar on fluoride toxicity and of a ratification vote on the Collective Bargaining Agreement just concluded between EPA and the union after lengthy negotiations.

The seminar had been asked for by the membership at a previous meeting when the question had arisen of resuming the union's activities related to responding to information requests from the public about its representational interests in fluoride toxicity. The seminar was given by Dr. Robert J. Carton, formerly President of the union, and Prof. Paul Connett, St. Lawrence University.

Following the seminar and a lively questioning period, a vote was taken by the membership on whether to endorse an initiative by Californians for Safe Drinking Water opposing the addition of fluoride to California's drinking water. The membership vote was unanimous in favor of supporting the California initiative.

Later that day, I wrote a letter to Mr. Jeff Green of the California group informing him of the vote, and a substantial amount of publicity resulted from this activity.

Between approximately the date of this action of our membership and very recently, I have become aware of questions arising over who this union represents and the attendance at the meeting during which the vote was taken. I first became aware that such questions were circulating during a radio debate on the National Public Radio station in New York City I had with Mr. Michael Easley, a spokesman for the American Dental Association. Mr Easley alleged that the union did not represent EPA scientists involved in fluoride risk assessment and that the meeting during which the vote was taken was sparsely attended. Since Mr. Easley is well known for his outrageous distortions, and I was more focussed on the toxicity issues I was raising, I paid little heed to his outlandish evasions.

In a related incident, illustrating similar events that have occurred over the past year, on June 16, 1998 I returned a call from a drinking water official who left a voice mail message for me, saying his boss asked him to call me and get information on the union and our July 1997 vote. I returned his call, leaving a message with a secretary the following day indicating I was available and happy to speak with him about these matters. I never heard from him again.

Then on July 31, 1998 I received a FAX containing, among other items a memorandum from Bob Barles, Chief of the prevention and Support Branch of your Office that went a long way toward explaining why our union's representational status and the meeting's attendance had come into question. And why, once interest in our activity stimulated inquiries, some entities, like the water authority cited in the previous paragraph, apparently got an alternative story from some place, and any hope of their getting the proper view of the union as a lawful representational organization of EPA Headquarters scientists was destroyed

The union does not challenge the Agency's right to advocate policies that comport with the laws it is charged with administering. If the Administrator of EPA chooses, for example, to advocate that the solution to pollution is dilution, and that the toxic waste product of the fertilizer industry, hydrofluosilicic acid, should be disposed of by dumping it into the nation's drinking water supplies, so long as the resulting level of fluoride does not exceed 4 mg/L, well, that is her right.

But she has no right - nor do you - to lie to the American public about the status of this union as the exclusive representative of EPA Headquarters scientists or about the toxic hazards posed by fluoride to its children and its elderly.

The union requests the following remedy aimed at repairing, to the limited extent possible under the circumstances of your Office's offense, the damage to the union's standing in the eyes of those to whom the false and misleading statements of your Office were made:

A letter signed by you, text to be approved by the union, to each and every person or group that received, directly or indirectly through subsequent transmissions by Regional Drinking Water personnel or other Agency officials, the essence of Bob Barles' message of August 28, 1997. The letter must, in effect, explain that the memorandum from Bob Barles contained false and misleading statements; that among these false and misleading statements was the implication that the union which voted unanimously to oppose the practice of water fluoridation in California does not represent EPA Headquarters scientists. And the letter must state that EPA has no basis in fact for any statement regarding the attendance of the meeting at which this vote was taken.

Further, the letter must explain that EPA scientists are entitled to their professional opinions about the toxic hazards of fluoride or any other agent, that they have a right, through their union or privately, to express those opinions to the public without interference or subversion of any kind from EPA, even when those opinions do not conform to an EPA policy such as supporting the disposal of toxic waste in the nation's drinking water supplies.

cc: Rosezella Canty-Letsome
Linda Wallace