Labor beats back asbestos bill

Organized labor successfully lobbied for the defeat of a controversial $140 billion asbestos bill in the Senate on February 14 by a vote of 58-41.

Labor, including the Change to Win Federation, opposed the bill for various reasons.

The BLET put out a call to its members on February 8, asking them to urge their Senators to vote no on the measure. The Brotherhood's State Legislative Board Chairmen also spent a great deal of time and effort lobbying against the bill.

"Their efforts were successful as the bill was ultimately defeated by two votes," said John Tolman, the BLET's Political and Legislative Director. "With the exception of three unions, all of Labor wanted to see this bill to fail."

For various reasons, numerous special interest groups joined labor to lobby against the bill. From labor's perspective, the trust fund for resolving claims was too small. In addition, the legislation did not resolve the issues of claims already filed against existing bankruptcy trusts, claims from individuals suffering from both asbestos and silica-related disease, and it did not contain an orderly sunset process that would have allowed for matters to be resolved before the fund was shut down.

The bill was introduced by Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and sought to create a $140 billion trust fund to compensate victims for asbestos-related medical problems. Asbestos manufacturers and their insurers would have financed the trust fund. In exchange, those organizations could no longer have been sued if the bill had been passed.

Senator Specter has already pledged to continue the pursuit of similar legislation. However, with the Senate's attention turning to Patriot Act issues for the rest of the week, then recess next week, it may be some time before the issue resurfaces.



© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen