San Diego, October 26, 2008
— In recognition of his outstanding contributions to public health through science-based advocacy, J. Davitt McAteer, JD, BA, received the 2008 David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health at the American Public Health Association’s 136th Annual Meeting & Exposition.
McAteer is an attorney in private practice in Shepherdstown, W.Va., as well as vice president of sponsored programs, governmental affairs and legal advisor to Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W.Va. His colleagues praise his 30-year career as a policy leader and social justice advocate.
“Davitt McAteer recognizes the importance of merging the core values of public health and social justice, with legal advocacy to realize social change,” wrote Celeste Monforton, MPH, of the George Washington University and Anthony Robbins, MD, MPA, of the Tufts University School of Medicine, in a letter nominating McAteer for the Rall Award. “His work to improve working conditions for working men and women has empowered workers and inspired public health advocates to fight for safer and healthier workplaces.”
McAteer was appointed by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin as a special advisor after the Sago Mine disaster claimed 12 lives in 2006. He served as assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health for the U.S. Department of Labor from 1994–2000 and as executive director of the Occupational Safety and Health Law Center from 1984–1993. He was director of the Mining Project of the Center for Law and Social Policy and solicitor of safety for the United Mine Workers of America, among his many public health advocacy positions.
As a young lawyer, McAteer teamed up with Ralph Nader to advocate for mine safety reforms through the Center for Study of Responsive Law, with a focus on monitoring enforcement of the recently enacted Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. He worked with front-line coal miners to revitalize the United Mine Workers of America’s safety and health department and has been appointed to numerous federal advisory committees including those established by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Interior.
McAteer has written many influential books and articles, including “Coal Mine Health and Safety: the Case of West Virginia,” “You Can’t Buy Safety at the Company Store,” and “A Miner’s Bill of Rights.” He produced the documentary “Monongah, 1907” about the nation’s
worst coal mine disaster, which killed 362 miners.
In the mid-1980s, McAteer was asked by the recently formed South African National Union of Mine Workers to study health and safety issues and make recommendations for a comprehensive mine safety law. He has worked for health screening availability for miners and served as an on-site advisor, beginning in September 2001, to the International Union of Operating Engineers at the World Trade Center site.