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Taking responsibility.

On July 5, 1993, James Hudson suffered a fatal heart attack as he carried out his maintenance duties at the Lincoln Memorial. Washington, D.C., was in the midst of an extended heat wave, with the combined effects of air temperature and humidity creating a "heat index" of over 100 degrees. Yet Mr. Hudson, a man dedicated to his duties, worked extra shifts that holiday weekend to be sure that this important monument, visited by millions every year, received the care and attention it deserved.

The story of his death is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First, Mr. Hudson, a Vietnam War veteran and the father of seven children, gave his life doing his job on behalf of people he did not know. He helped preserve a resource that inspires millions of people - and that is what the National Park System is all about.

Second, newspaper accounts pointed out that, despite Mr. Hudson's eight years of service for NPS, his family was not eligible for a government-subsidized pension or life insurance benefits. Hudson was one of many Park Service workers denied the privilege of being permanent NPS employees despite their dedication and years on the job. He and many other full-time "temporary" employees have been locked into positions without benefits, not even the minimum benefits enjoyed by other public-and private-sector employees.

The reason is that for years Congress and various administrations have not allowed the Park Service the staff it needs to properly administer our National Park System. The number of Park Service employees is barely higher today than it was in 1980 when Alaska lands were added to the system, doubling the acreage under NPS care. With no authorization to hire the staff it needs, and with a chronic shortage of funds, the Park Service has resorted to hiring "temporary" employees for extended periods - even though federal rules prohibit using temporary workers on a continuous basis for more than four years.

On July 15, 1993, the plight of the Hudson family was brought before Congress, resulting in compensation equivalent to the basic life insurance provided to most federal workers. But isn't it a shame that Congress had to pass a special piece of legislation in order for James Hudson's family to be able to receive benefits for eight years of service?

There is no excuse for the federal government not to treat with dignity the people who help preserve the monuments and watch over the parks. This man deserved better treatment - as do many other Park Service employees who are asked to survive on sunsets.
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Title Annotation:Outlook; benefits for Park Service employees
Author:Pritchard, Paul C.
Publication:National Parks
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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