On Thursday, workers, labor groups, attorneys and surviving family members of victims of asbestos disease came together for an emotional press conference and public hearing to speak out against AB-19/SB-13, a bill which is a direct assault on victims of asbestos disease.
Introduced by Rep. Andre Jacque and Sen. Glenn Grothman AB19/SB13 undermines justice for workers who die of asbestos diseases by shielding corporations from being held accountable for having asbestos ridden work places. It is estimated that 10,000 U.S. workers die each year from asbestos exposure.
Scott Nuutinen, a pipefitter from Appleton, testified alongside his mother MaryBeth. Scott is a third generation pipefitter and lost both his father and grandfather to mesothelioma, a cancer which is caused by exposure to asbestos disease.
“There is a common misconception that asbestos disease is a thing of the past, that asbestos is gone, but as they guys behind me can vouch for, it’s still there,” explained Scott. “We take down pipes that aren’t marked, though by law it is supposed to be marked. Bosses try to tell you it’s not a big deal, but I can tell you it’s not gone and it is a big deal.”
This Republican-backed legislation is a clear giveback to the corporate elite who have funded the campaigns of many GOP lawmakers in Madison. This bill appears to be linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or A.L.E.C. A.L.E.C. is a corporate back entity that allows for global corporations and state politicians to use “model bills” in an attempt to rewrite state laws that reach into almost every area of American life and often directly benefit corporations.
It is already a long and trying process for families of victims of asbestos disease to receive any sort of compensation for astronomical medical bills they face. Many asbestos victims die before their day in court and are unable to provide testimony, meaning the company gets off free for creating a harmful and deadly work environment.
These workers give the ultimate sacrifice, their health and their life. As a society, we are all better off because of the work they perform.
“The irony is as exposure victims’ health deteriorates, untold numbers of Wisconsin citizens in communities across the state end up benefiting from the mitigation and other work they performed,” explained John Schmitt, President of the Wisconsin Laborers’ District Council. “Because of these workers, many of our schools, places of worship, and office buildings; commercial districts, power plants, and paper mills; public structures and, yes, even the building we’re in today, are safer places for people to be…we owe all workers who have worked hard and played by the rules, only to face their last days suffering from the debilitating and cruel effects of asbestos exposure, caused not by their negligence but by the negligence of others. We need a path to justice that is both swift and fair.”
Asbestos corporate executives knew by the 1930s that asbestos was deadly, but callously covered it up in the name of profit. One corporate memo even states, “if you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products why not die from it?”
• AB-19 is designed to delay and deny justice until asbestos victims die.
• This is the latest effort in a campaign to help asbestos corporations evade accountability.
• Asbestos is the longest-running public health epidemic in the world.
- Veterans make up 30% of all asbestos related deaths which have occured.
• The non-profit, RAND, estimates that there will be 432,465 asbestos-related cancer deaths in America by 2029.
• From 1999 to 2005, Wisconsin ranked 14th in the nation in the number of asbestos-related deaths.
• Asbestos was known to be deadly by 1900, but the asbestos industry hid the facts, exposed workers and families and put millions of Americans at risk.
• This legislation is not limited to just asbestos and could negatively impact and delay all personal injury claims.