AFGE members came together to demand a safe workplace, and their efforts paid off. Employees were informed that the General Services Administration (GSA) will cease operating at the contaminated Goodfellow Complex in St. Louis, Mo., and employees will be moved to a new location.
The Goodfellow federal complex is comprised of 23 buildings and houses 2,000 employees from the Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Social Security Administration (SSA), 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 years-long failure by managers at GSA to properly mitigate hazardous working conditions at the Goodfellow complex has prompted our union to file a whistleblower disclosure, call 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. The locals also sought information on several issues, including the number of bargaining unit employees who have worked at the facility, the chemicals that have exposed to them, the period of exposure, workers’ compensation cases, and other critical information. The locals held meetings and townhalls to discuss the issue with employees and discuss steps they could take. The employees also rallied to protest the dangerous working conditions.
Our collective efforts to shine a spotlight on the dangerous working conditions garnered extensive media coverage and prompted GSA to clean up its act.
According to a letter sent to employees from USDA, which is one of the complex’s tenants, GSA has informed USDA that the agency is shutting down the complex.
“GSA has also made USDA aware of its plan to cease operating at the Goodfellow Complex in the future. Given the lack of important employee amenities such as the credit union, cafeteria and child care options, and consistent with the Department’s One Neighborhood space utilization initiatives, USDA is working with GSA to secure a new location or locations for all USDA employees that currently reside at the Goodfellow Complex,” USDA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration Donald Brice said in a June 26 letter to employees.
The timeline of the relocation is still unclear.
“For years, GSA misrepresented the dangers of the contamination and then tried to silence whistleblowers who spoke up. We showed them that wouldn’t be ignored, we wouldn’t be silenced, and today we prevailed!” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “This is truly an example of the difference a union can make in people’s lives.”