Ill Pantex worker voices concerns over benefits

Ill Pantex worker voices concerns over benefits

Amarillo, TX -  Strikers will continue to man the Pantex picket line over the holiday weekend and joining them is one worker who says he is a prime example of why the strike is necessary.

Pete Lopez has spent 43 years working at Pantex .For the past 14 years, he's been working and living with a lung disease that has no cure. "I was the first person at Pantex diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease. I got it working on the product that we make," said Lopez.

Beryllium disease scars lung tissue and can cause lung cancer. "I have good days and bad days," said Lopez. "There's days I can't come to work because of it, so it is important that I keep those sick leave days."

Lopez must also travel to a specialty doctor in Denver. "I go to Denver every year and they go through my lungs. It's almost a week long. It's a lung lavage and biopsies and stuff like that. It's kind of grueling."

Lopez said he stands on the picket line because of his disease and the more than 1,300 others the Metal Trades Council believes have fallen ill while working at Pantex.

"When I started 43 years ago, the purpose and reason for this job and this plant, it hasn't changed in 43 years," said Lopez. "The reason is still the same, so why should the benefits change?"

Consolidated Nuclear Security, contracted to manage Pantex, said the change is due to Department of Energy Order 350.1. The order requires contractors like CNS to complete a benefits evaluation of similar companies in the region to determine how much they can spend on worker benefits.

It has been almost a week since the strike started, and the MTC said no contract negotiations have taken place with CNS.

Madison Alewel - NewsChannel 10