Sunday, May 16, 2010

As It Stands: How to get in trouble for telling the truth -- be a Whistleblower

By Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

They're average folk, but when they decide to step up and tell the truth about what's wrong in their work place, they become targets. Their lives are often ruined because they are honest.

They're Whistleblowers, who reveal wrongdoing within an organization to the public or to those in positions of authority. In my opinion, they're heroes in an age when heroes are all too rare.

Remember Karen Silkwood? She was an American labor union activist and a chemical technician at the Kerr-McGee plant near Crescent, Okla., in 1974. A movie was based on her story.

Police suspicions about her mysterious death led to a federal investigation into nuclear plant security and safety. Silkwood exposed the hazards of nuclear energy and raised questions about corporate accountability and responsibility. She paid the ultimate price for revealing Kerr-McGee's dangerous practices.

More recently, Wendell Potter, a former vice president of Corporate Communications at CIGNA, one of the biggest health insurance organizations in the country, testified against the HMO industry in the U.S. Senate.

What motivated Potter to expose his employers? You might say he an epiphany when he saw a touring free clinic run by Remote Area Medical in rural Virginia. He was horrified by the hundreds of desperate people, most without medical insurance, who came from the hills for basic medical help.

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