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Cowboy hat By Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer - Thu., 4/10/08
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If you live near any kind of factory, chemical plant, or similar facility, you might have noticed curious smells emanating from those places. What is it?

Well, you and I have a legal right to know in detail what kind and how much toxic stuff these places are releasing into our air, water, and soil. The national Right-To-Know Program, passed in 1984, provides that data on air-borne toxins be made public.

It was not Congress--and certainly not the polluting corporations--that created this essential public tool. Rather, the sparkplug was a guy named Tony Mazzocchi, a wiry, savvy, spirited labor leader (one of the best ever) who coined the phrase, "right-to-know." Around 1970, Tony was getting hundreds of complaints from chemical workers about plants that were shrouded in what the corporate bosses dismissively called "dust." Mazzocchi barnstormed across America, helping grassroots coalitions pass dozens of local right-to-know laws and then the federal legislation.

However, in 2001, George W happened, and he's been doing his damnedest to undo Tony's work. At the behest of corporate executives who hate the pesky public, W's regulators have exempted some 3,500 toxic spewers from the Right-To-Know law.

Congress or a new president must reverse W's monkey-wrenching, and if they need inspiration they should read Les Leopold's new book, The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi (Chelsea Publishing, Nov. 2007).

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Filed Under: Common good, Labor