Cantwell in Richland to Meet with Hanford Workers - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Cantwell in Richland to Meet with Hanford Workers

RICHLAND, Wash.- Approximately 50 Hanford workers came to Tuesday's meeting, and they're happy with talk of a better retirement.

After a standing ovation, Senator Maria Cantwell expressed concern that a Department of Energy plan creating two different pension classes will compromise Hanford workers.

"You don't want to have a less skilled, less interested workforce that's willing to settle for a pension plan that may not be as robust or as secure, coming and working on a site as important as Hanford and important for worker safety," Cantwell said. 

The plan would create two pension classes for workers based on when they started work, possibly leaving new workers with less compensation. 

Hanford workers new and old love the idea of someone looking out for them in Washington, D.C..

"Too often we've had people that you can't even contact. You try to call them or write them and you get nothing back," said Keith Smith, a longtime Hanford worker.

Cantwell says she is also fighting for improved safety on DOE sites, helping support workers who's safety may have been compromised in the past.

"She called for current and former workers to receive compensation for years of service and exposure to hazardous materials," said David Molnaa, President of HAMTC.

"When the plan was being poorly administered by the Department of Energy, she fought to have the Department of Labor take over."

Cantwell says she has joined a group of Democrats including Hillary Clinton in opposition of a senate bill that would cut benefits for some 130,000 DOE workers nationwide.

The Senator is also in Yakima today as part of a nine day tour of the state to promote her reelection.

First Lady Laura Bush will be in town on August 30 to help raise money for Cantwell's Republican Challenger Mike McGavick.