Daschle and Organized Labor Say Passage of Asbestos Bill Unlikely

Asbestos Bill Fails to Adequately Provide for Those With Asbestos Cancers

WASHINGTON, D.C.-October 22, 2003-In an attempt to save the flailing Hatch asbestos bill, S.B. 1125, insurers and asbestos companies agreed to a $114 billion fund to compensate asbestos victims last week. Organized labor and Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle strongly oppose the proposal, however, and believe that S.B. 1125 will not pass in this legislative session.

The agreement, which was worked out by Senate Republican leader, Bill Frist, requires insurers to contribute 46% to the fund, and the asbestos companies, 54% (New York Times, October 16). However, the $114 billion figure is inadequate to address the needs of asbestos victims and their families, according to Senate Minority leader, Tom Daschle. "It won't be passed if this is the final offer," he said.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called the $114 billion fund "grossly inadequate" and explained that it "... has been presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, with no flexibility in additional funding" (Press Release, October 17, 2003). He pointed out the following additional problems:

  • Although the agreement provides for modest increases in compensation levels for various categories of asbestos diseases, the proposed values remain much too low.
  • The agreement fails to state with any certainty that claims will be paid.

Peg Seminario, AFL-CIO's occupational health official, said that the AFL-CIO favored a proposal by Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy that would provide a compensation fund for asbestos victims of between $128 billion and $185 billion (Reuters, October 21, 2003). She denied comments made by Sen. Frist that labor had not made its position clear on the asbestos bill.