After a years-long fight, 1,000 employees working for the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development department are being moved out of the contaminated Goodfellow building complex in St. Louis, MO., to a new location downtown.
They will be relocated to Metropolitan Square, 211 N. Broadway, which will house all USDA employees currently located in Goodfellow. The relocations are expected to be complete by September 2021.
“This is far too long overdue, but we will not be satisfied until all the employees from all the agencies are relocated,” said AFGE President Everett Kelley.
Besides USDA, the Goodfellow complex has housed several other federal agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, and GSA. For years, employees working in this complex have raised concerns about the hazardous substances including lead, cadmium, arsenic, asbestos, and other potentially cancer-causing chemicals. Their concerns were ignored even though GSA has been on notice due to multiple reports from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Inspector General, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and its own privately contracted reports.
The failure by managers at GSA to properly mitigate hazardous working conditions at the Goodfellow complex prompted AFGE whistleblowers to file a whistleblower disclosure with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), multiple OSHA complaints, and multiple calls for a congressional investigation, and request the immediate transfer of affected workers from the location. AFGE locals in the area demanded to bargain with the agencies over employees’ temporary duty stations to get everyone out as soon as possible.
Our union staged multiple protests outside the facility, organized town hall meetings to educate our members and leaders, and provided training on workers’ compensation, health and safety, and whistleblower protection. We worked with the Missouri AFL-CIO and other unions and organizations. We worked with Congressman Lacy Clay, who led the charge and brought along a bipartisan consensus in Missouri and Illinois.
GSA last year announced it would cease operating at the contaminated Goodfellow Complex, but agencies have been dragging their feet in moving employees out. The VA eventually moved all of its employees out. About 300 employees from the Records Management Center, now known as Centralized Support Division, are located at the St. Louis VBA Regional Office on 9700 Page Ave.
SSA has plans to relocate employees to a new location – the Robert A. Young (RAY) federal building, which is being renovated and scheduled to be complete in August, 2020. SSA employees from Goodfellow are expected to move into the new building by November. SSA employees have been teleworking due to COVID-19 since mid-March. AFGE Local 1336 asked the agency to allow employees to continue to telework if they’re recalled to the offices before the new building is complete, but SSA has not committed to a formal telework policy for return to work yet.
The Goodfellow Federal Center was built during World War II for the production of ammunition before being converted to civilian use decades later.
AFGE thanks Congressman Clay for keeping pushing the agencies to protect employees and finally relocate these 1,000 USDA workers.
“No one should have to choose between serving their country or sacrificing their health,” Congressman Clay told reporters. “Since I became aware of the obvious unabated environmental hazards at this site and the terrible healthcare toll this has inflicted on so many federal employees, my goal was to first get these dedicated workers out of harm’s way, and then if possible, retain these good federal jobs for St. Louis.”