The House of Representatives passed a bill this week that would block the Reagan administration's attempt to move the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health from its Rockville headquarters to Atlanta.
A labor and health appropriations bill passed by a voice vote in the House Tuesday would prohibit the use of federal funds to move NIOSH to Atlanta, where it was to be merged with the Centers for Disease Control. A bill containing similar language has been approved by the Senate.
"We're ecstatic," said Darlene Christian, the Freedom of Informmation Officer at NIOSH and vice president of the local employes' union. "We see this as a major victory."
The Reagan administration approved the move last May, contending NIOSH would operate more efficiently if it were joined to CDC. The new NIOSH director, J. Donald Millar, whose tenure began in July, is the first NIOSH director to work out of Atlanta instead of Rockville. A NIOSH official said yesterday that the Reagan administration agreed to the move after Millar said he would not accept the directorship if the agency stayed in Rockville. Millar has worked in Atlanta for many years, the official said.
Christian said that roughly half of NIOSH's 157 employes would not have moved to Atlanta if the agency had been relocated. She said CDC has wanted NIOSH to move in order to take over some of the agency's staff positions. This would enable CDC to make up for its own staff losses that have resulted from budget cuts, Christian said.
The dispute over the move has led to a rift between some employes and Millar. "We are not satisfied with our leadership," Christian said. She said that it is essential for NIOSH to stay in Rockville because of its proximity to the federal government.
Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.) and Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) fought the move in Congress.
Barnes said the move was unjustified and that the planning for it was inadequate.