It's about the people


It was the place to work. After all, it was Big Blue—the kind of employer that would provide a nice, fat pension after 30 years of service.

Or so that's what former employees, like Keith Barrack, thought of IBM Corp. He was "ecstatic and honored" when he got a job working at the computer giant's East Fishkill, N.Y. plant. And it was there that he felt part of a larger "family."

Together, they mourn those, like Christi Starks, 35, who died of breast cancer and left three young children, and pray for co-workers like Terry Ramirez-Fichthorn, 34, who was married for just two years when diagnosed with a brain tumor.

And together they watch and worry as 250 of their own battle the company in lawsuits alleging IBM poisoned them in cleanrooms while making chips and other microelectronic components.

IBM consistently denies it all, and has even gone as far to say that cancer is just a fact of life, even though cancer rates among its employees and their families shatter national averages.

Perhaps it is also merely a coincidence that Barrack and Chris Ramm, another former IBM cleanroom worker from California, developed the same very rare form of cancer that accounts for less than one percent of all cancers in men each year?

Whether the news comes from Fortune magazine, the San Jose Mercury News or CBS' 60 Minutes II program, the story isn't just about what testimony a judge allows. It's not just about airflow and chemicals. It's not even just about cancer.

It's a story about a group of people...who live in fear. It's a story about a group of people who are tired of seeing each other suffer and die, and it's a story about a group of people who were abandoned and don't understand why—and their collective heart aches because of it.

Mark A. DeSorbo

Associate Editor