Labor Leader Denounces Latest Agreement Between Asbestos Companies and Insurers

Asbestos Disease Victims Would Suffer Under Hatch Asbestos Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C.-October 30, 2003-AFL-CIO president John Sweeney again called the latest agreement between asbestos companies and insurers to provide a $114 billion trust fund for asbestos victims "grossly inadequate." (See our prior article about theasbestos funding proposal.) In a letter to Senate majority leader Bill Frist dated October 27, 2003, Mr. Sweeney outlined the funding problems in S.B. 1125, the Hatch asbestos bill, as revised by the new proposal. These include:

  • Failure to pay victims compensation values at least as high as those contained in previous proposals made by Senators Patrick Leahy and Edward Kennedy;
  • Compensation increases in a few asbestos disease categories that benefit only a small number of victims;
  • Inadequate front-end funding;
  • Inadequate contingent funding in case the expected number of asbestos disease claims is exceeded; and
  • Lack of clearly defined shared liability between asbestos companies and insurers.

Mr. Sweeney added that there are a number of extremely complex issues beyond those dealing with funding that must also be addressed in any new asbestos trust fund program. "...We are unwilling to accept a substitute system that does not ensure fair and swift treatment for the close to 2 million more victims who will still need their claims resolved. Our affiliates will be strongly unified in their opposition to a corporate bailout if that is simply what the business and insurance groups seek to achieve."