The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote tomorrow on legislation that bears the Orwellian title: Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act. The bill places lengthy and burdensome new reporting requirements on victims seeking compensation for asbestos-related illnesses. As AFJ President Nan Aron has said: “Were there a truth-in-labeling law for legislation, this bill would be called the ‘Delay Till They Die’ act.”

Some proponents of the legislation actually claim it will help asbestos victims. The victims know better. That’s why Alliance for Justice joined representatives from three victims’ groups, the Asbestos Cancer Victims Rights Campaign, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and the Wisconsin Asbestos Victims Network at a telephone news conference today to oppose the bill.

Listen to the news conference:

This post is adapted from comments during the news conference by AFJ Director of Justice Programs Michelle Schwartz:

At Alliance for Justice, we work to provide access to justice for everyday Americans who have been harmed, and make sure our justice system serves everyone equally and is not tilted toward powerful interests.

This bill is a transparent attempt to take access to justice away from some of the most vulnerable people in our country, in order to help corporations that got rich knowingly making them sick.

PHOTO BY ADRIEN LAMARRE TAKEN IN PANAMA 93In addition to groups formed by and for asbestos victims and their surviving family members, labor and consumer organizations, including the AFL-CIO, Public Citizen, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Environmental Working Group, also strongly oppose the FACT Act.

So the question is: Who supports this bill? That’s a much shorter list:

First, the Chamber of Commerce. Second, the asbestos companies. The very same companies that knew for decades that asbestos causes fatal diseases for workers and their families. The very same companies that spent decades covering up that information.

So don’t be fooled by any of the bill’s supporters who claim to speak for the victims.

  • It passed in Committee with no Democratic support and bipartisan opposition—with Republican Representative Ted Poe of Texas and every Democrat on the Committee voting against it.
  • Amendment after amendment to protect victims’ privacy and to protect veterans was voted down.

With all the issues facing our country, it is hard to imagine that the most pressing issue for the United States House of Representatives this week is delaying and denying justice to victims. It’s particularly insulting for the House to take up this bill the week of Veterans Day. Veterans have suffered disproportionately from asbestos disease, and would suffer disproportionately from this bill. And it especially seems like a waste of time when it’s clear this bill is going nowhere in the Senate.

It kind of makes you wonder why House Republican leadership has decided to devote time this week to this bill. Maybe they’re trying to get out of the Chamber’s doghouse after that whole government shutdown fiasco.

Whatever the reason for considering this bill, it certainly does not warrant placing additional burdens on asbestos victims who have already suffered so much.

We at AFJ are proud to be part of the coalition standing with asbestos victims to oppose this bill.

November 12, 2013