Monday, December 29, 2014

The Life and Mysterious Death of Karen Silkwood



Several posthumous investigations were launched in both public and private spheres. The press picked up on Silkwood's story; The New York Times had a front-row seat because Burnham had literally been at the scene of the accident a few hours after it happened. He and Steve Wodka had been waiting for Silkwood at the nearby Holiday Inn. When she was uncharacteristically later than usual, at 10 p.m., they started making phone calls and learned of the accident. After Burnham's stories appeared in the Times, Rolling Stone picked up on the story and ran a series of articles on the plant and Silkwood.
Silkwood's Honda after the accident
Silkwood's Honda after the accident
And locally, people were still trying to hash out what had happened. An accident investigator, A.O. Pipkin was hired to investigate the accident by the union. Pipkin found that the rear bumper of Silkwood's car showed concave markings on the left side that neither Drew Stephens nor the mechanic who had previously worked on Karen's car remembered. That fender also tested positive for rubber, as if a bumper from another car had hit her from behind. Kerr-McGee and police contended that any dents in the metal fender were from the tow truck hauling the car from the ditch.
Kerr-McGee accepted the narrative put forth by the police department, and when questioned, went on the offensive. Company representatives suggested that Karen had been a drunk, drug-addicted floozy who perhaps had even gone so far as to poison herself to get the plant in trouble. To Silkwood's friends, this was a plainly preposterous notion, considering how much of a nervous wreck she had become over the last few month, but it was a version repeatedly put forth in the lawsuit that soon followed her death.

The Kerr-McGee Story

Karen Silkwood was born on the 19th day of February in the year of 1946.

She died in the year of 1974 on November 13th. During life, she worked at the Kerr-McGee plant in Oklahoma, near the city of Crescent. She held the responsibility of making pellets composed of plutonium for fuel rods that were nuclear reactor based. Eventually, she came to the point where she questioned the irregularities that occurred at the factory, and stated that they committed many wrongdoings. Once this started to happen, she mysteriously died. It is believed that Karen was part of a conspiracy that would prevent her from revealing information on the Kerr-McGee plant.
When Karen Silkwood got the job at the Kerr-McGee plant, she become interested in the group called "Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union". It was not too long after being hired that she joined the group. Shortly thereafter, the union members participated in a strike against Kerr-McGee. The strike would soon come to a close and she would be put in the committee that was referred to as "Union Bargaining" and given the responsibility of investigating issues related to the health of the workers as well as the overall safety of those individuals. She researched the facility and discovered:

Karen Silkwood
Who killed silkwood christic.jpg
Poster from the Christic Institute archives.
Born Karen Gay Silkwood
February 19, 1946
Longview, Texas
Died November 13, 1974 (aged 28)
near Crescent, Oklahoma
Nationality American
Spouse(s) William Meadows (1965–1972), 3 children
Karen Gay Silkwood (February 19, 1946 – November 13, 1974) was an American chemical technician and labor union activist known for raising concerns about corporate practices related to health and safety of workers in a nuclear facility. She is most famous for her mysterious death, which was the subject of a victorious lawsuit against the chemical company Kerr-McGee. She gained more fame when she was portrayed by Meryl Streep in Mike Nichols' 1983 Academy Award-nominated film "Silkwood".
She worked at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site plant near Crescent, Oklahoma, United States. Silkwood's job was making plutonium pellets for nuclear reactor fuel rods. This plant experienced theft of plutonium by workers during this era. She joined the union and became an activist on behalf of issues of health and safety at the plant as a member of the union's negotiating team, the first woman to have that position at Kerr-McGee. In the summer of 1974, she testified to the Atomic Energy Commission about her concerns.
For three days in November, she was found to have abnormal but low levels of plutonium contamination on her person and in her home. That month, while driving to meet with David Burnham, a New York Times journalist, and Steve Wodka, an official of her union's national office, she died in a car accident under unclear circumstances.
Her family sued Kerr-McGee on behalf of her estate. In what was the longest trial up until then in Oklahoma history, the jury found Kerr-McGee liable for the plutonium contamination of Silkwood, and awarded substantial damages. These were reduced on appeal, but the case reached the United States Supreme Court in 1979, which upheld the damages verdict. Before another trial took place, Kerr-McGee settled with the estate out of court for US $1.38 million, while not admitting liability.

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