© 2013-2020 by Steven H. Wodka.  All Rights Reserved.       

577 Little Silver Point Rd, P.O. Box 66

 Little Silver, NJ  07739-0066

 shw@wodkalaw.com  732-530-2815

Disclaimer

For more than fifty years, I have been a leader in the field of worker health and safety. In 1969, when I was 19 years old, I investigated pesticide poisonings of field workers as a volunteer for the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee in Delano, California. That same year, upon Ralph Nader's recommendation, I joined the Washington, DC office of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union (OCAW), where I worked for 12 years under the direction of the “father” of the health and safety movement, Anthony (Tony) Mazzocchi.

At the OCAW, I lobbied Congress for the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). After its passage, Mazzocchi and I implemented an aggressive OSHA enforcement program for the OCAW membership. My work included:

  • inspecting plants making beryllium metal, chlorine, dyes, polyvinyl chloride, as well as oil refineries, coke ovens, and numerous chemical plants, including the Pittsburgh Corning plant in Tyler, Texas where Unibestos asbestos pipecovering was manufactured. We brought the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) into that plant, where it found that the workers were inhaling some of the highest levels of asbestos dust ever recorded.

  • filing the first complaint under OSHA and obtaining OSHA Citation No. 1, which was issued against Allied Chemical in Moundsville, West Virginia, for overexposing its workers to mercury.                                                                                                          

  • representing the OCAW in hearings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) when Texaco contested OSHA citations for gross overexposure by its workes to benzene when loading barges and tankers at its Port Arthur, Texas oil refinery.

  • assisting the OCAW local at the Kerr-McGee nuclear fuel fabrication plant near Crescent, Oklahoma in uncovering the plutonium contamination of the plant. Karen Silkwood was one of the leaders of that local union. She was killed when her car was forced off the road on her way to meet with me and David Burnham, a reporter for The New York Times.

  • testifying before committees of the House and Senate on worker safety and health issues on 12 occasions, and serving as a member of the Secretary of Labor’s Standard Advisory Committee on Coke Oven Emissions.

 

Some of the investigations which Mazzocchi and I conducted for the OCAW have been documented in Expendable Americans by Paul Brodeur, The Viking Press, 1974 (raw asbestos fiber); Muscle and Blood by Rachel Scott, E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc., 1974 (beryllium dust); and the plutonium contamination of the Kerr-McGee plant, in The Killing of Karen Silkwood by Richard Rashke, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1981, and Who Killed Karen Silkwood by Howard Kohn, Summit Books, 1981. A fictionalized version appeared in the movie Silkwood directed by Mike Nichols, 20th Century Fox, 1983.

In 1991, the OCAW International Union highlighted my work in a presentation to the Union's Constitutional Convention, Keepers of the Dream.

In 1981, I became a paralegal for attorney Frederick M. Baron, a pioneer of asbestos litigation. While working for Baron, I attended law school at night and graduated in 1986 from Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law in Washington, DC.

While in law school, Vern Jensen, President of OCAW Local 8-891, asked me to investigate the asbestos exposure of his members at the Union Carbide plant in Bound Brook, New Jersey. We were able to document that from 1950 through 1974, Union Carbide had used more than fifty million pounds of raw asbestos fiber in the manufacture of the Bakelite phenolic molding material, which was used in a variety of products, from telephones to automobile parts.

In 1986, I was admitted to the New Jersey Bar and moved here in order to prosecute the asbestos claims from the Union Carbide plant. In 1988, I began my current law practice, Steven H. Wodka, Attorney-At-Law, in Little Silver, New Jersey, where I have specialized in representing  workers who have been injured or killed by exposure to toxic chemicals on the job. A detailed list of some of the cases which I have handled is provided here.

Mazzocchi Addressing 1979 OCAW Convention

"I've been accused of being militant. I think that's a sad reflection of where we are.  I thought we would wear proudly the fact that we are militant. I don't intend to bow before any company, an unjust company, an unjust government or tyranny in any form; that's my role to the last breath of my life, that's what trade unionism is about."

BAR ADMISSIONS:

 

  • 1986, New Jersey (state court and  US District Court)

  • 1987, District of Columbia

  • 2003, US District Court for the     Western District of NY

  • 2012, US Court of Appeals for the  District of Columbia Circuit

 

EDUCATION:

 

  • J.D., 1986, Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America, Washington DC

  • Undergraduate: Columbia University and Antioch College

 

NOTABLE CASES:

 

 

SIGNIFICANT TRIALS:

  • Fox v. York Industries, 1988, Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County, Plaintiff’s verdict, $250,000, asbestosis in a 70 year old retired boiler installer.

  • Lattin v. Tenneco Chemicals, 2006, Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County, Plaintiff’s verdict,  $1,214,432.81, brain cancer in 57 year old deceased former PVC worker. 

  • Gravina v. Harris Pine Mills, 2006, Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County, Settled prior to summations, $925,000, bladder cancer in 46 year old former furniture worker.

 

MEMBERSHIPS:

 

  • United Steelworkers Local 4-149 (formerly OCAW Local 8-149) since 1971

  • New Jersey State Bar Association

  • American Association for Justice