When was the last time the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO agreed on a matter related to workers’ health and safety? That’s exactly what has happened since the formal announcement about CDC Director Julie Gerberding’s decision not to reappoint NIOSH Director John Howard. Members of Congress are demanding meetings, stakeholders are sending letters, and the NYTimes Editorial Board called it “A Pointless Departure”. In fact, I’ve been searching to find anyone who agrees with Gerberding’s decision. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Marc Freedman said:
“Frankly we would have thought this was a no-brainer. He [John Howrad] comes in with the business community in various forms, the safety community in various forms, the Democrats and even labor — on a silver platter. So I’m rather struck by their unwillingness. But it wasn’t ‘they’ in general. It was Dr. Gerberding.”
A letter from members of the New York congressional delegation to Gerberding and Leavitt says they:
“are appalled by your decision to fire Dr. Howard, demand that you explain your decision, and urge you to reappoint him immediately.”
“Dr. Howard has received near-universal praise from industry and labor interests alike for his service protecting American workers. He has proven to be an outstanding public servant, and political ideology should not drive him out.”
Governor of New York David Patterson wrote to President Bush urging him to intervene and reappoint John Howard, who has also been serving as the federal coordinator of the health program for 9/11 workers.
So, if everybody is for John Howard, why is Gerberding against him? Could her decision be influenced by ego, politics, personal aspirations or just plain friction?
Recall, it was only 4 years ago that Gerberding unleashed her reorganization plan for CDC which would have essentially dismantled NIOSH by creating a few large “Coordinating Centers.” Pressure from worker advocates and researchers, the public health community, labor and business groups, and former NIOSH directors managed to partially quash the plan. I’m sure Gerberding was not p.o’d that her big plan to “transform CDC” ran into obstacles. That pesky NIOSH and supporters of worker-specific health and safety research. Ruining my master plan.
This org chart shows the current structure with the six “Coordinating Centers” and NIOSH. That pesky NIOSH—foiling my reorganizational transformationing.
One can’t help but wonder whether Gerberding’s desire to eliminate NIOSH as a separate agency will be realized now that this small institute is missing its leader. Humph. I won’t be foiled again.