Will the asbestos companies ever learn?
Letter to the Baltimore Sun, 3-27-99
Dear Sun Editor:
I read with dismay the article by Erin Texeira, "Racial basis for asbestos lawsuits?" (3/25/99)
The idea that "blacks" (once the court has decided what that is) should require a higher level of disability rating to qualify for compensation is vulgar and discriminatory. To maintain that there is any scientific justification to this is nonsense is more "science" by corporate donations.
I thought we had federal and state laws which disallowed discrimination based on "race".
What is next? "Blacks" will have to start ten yards behind the line in races to off set the advantage of their larger lungs? "Blacks" who score baskets by jumping will only be counted as one point due to their increased "jumping factor"?
Will all compensation, including workers compensation and social security, be renegotiated due to the difference in "races"? Will "blacks" who have been compensated in a similar manner to whites now be asked to return a portion of their compensation?
Judge Kaplan and all attorney's who signed on to the 1992 guidelines should be held accountable for allowing this idea to even hold one sentence in the guidelines. Where is there leadership for justice? Is it in the Attorney's Generals Office, in the Mayor's office, in the office of the NAACP or the offices of our federal and state representatives? Each of our elected officials should immediately begin an investigation into how the courts are being used to promote a racist' attack on the majority of Baltimore's citizens and, in reality, on all people.
After they get done cheating the black asbestos victims they will come for the white ones. We must all stand together to demand immediate investigations of this matter to determine if the courts have been used to deny justice or if there is a conspiracy to use the courts to deny justice. The motions by Owens Corning must be squashed.
As for Owens Corning, their history is full of this kind of activity. Their corporate greed spends millions to deny a few dollars in compensation. Had this theory of discrimination, which directly benefits the coffers of OC, been presented by the KKK, it might have been dismissed as the rants of the lunatic fringe. It is much more serious when it is presented by a very wealthy and influential group of capitalists as an excuse to deny compensation to those they poisoned.
Owens Corning discussed the known hazards of asbestos in company correspondence and treated their employees with asbestos diseases in the early forties. Yet they continued to publicly maintain asbestos was safe and did not need warning labels for the next 25 years. They continued to sell asbestos containing products until 1972. Owens Corning has tried every legal tactic to delay, deny and distort the compensation they owe to hundreds of thousands of sick workers in the United States.
Their current " racist" defense, i.e. "we shouldn't pay that sick worker because he is black" was preceded by the "time limits defense", "we shouldn't pay that sick worker because he did not ask for his compensation "in time". This was followed by the "fat defense"; where doctors were dredged up to testify in court that the scarring on the workers lungs from asbestos was "fat" and not disease. This was followed by the "smoking" defense which said "we should not pay for what we are responsible for because the worker smoked". This was followed by the "other guy" defense which said that " it was someone else's asbestos, not ours, that made this person sick". Then they had the "we didn't know" defense whose lies were shattered by the book "Asbestos Medical and Legal Aspects" by Dr. Barry Castleman.
They must feel the legal climate is right for the "black stand back" philosophy. They must feel they have friends in the legal and judicial circles in Baltimore. If this proceeds in Baltimore City, where the majority is "black", what hope is there for justice anywhere else? Every reactionary judge in the country is salivating at the possibility denying black workers justice based on what can come from Judge Kaplan's court.
Asbestos hasn't done much good for Baltimore and its citizens. We paid through the nose to have it found and removed from buildings. We watched as more and more of our men and women succumbed to cancer and asbestosis. We can partially thank asbestos for keeping our cancer rate aligned to Louisiana and Los Angeles. Asbestos has given us a benevolent sports billionaire who lets us pay $100 to take the family to a ball game in the bleachers. But other than these things, we haven't gotten much good from the use of Owens Corning's deadly products. The little compensation that has been paid is quickly sucked up by the medical and legal communities. This as left vast sections of Essex, Dundalk, south and west Baltimore City on oxygen and in poverty.
The White Lung Association is calling upon all its members and the people of Maryland to immediately and resolutely oppose this racist' attack by Owens Corning. We are going to demand that the Maryland Bar Association investigate the possibility of illegal activity connected to this matter. We will be calling on the Attorney General (again) to investigate and defend the rights of asbestos victims. We call on Mayor Schmoke and the People of Baltimore to demand accountability from Judge Kaplan and the court for their participation in this manner. We call on the NAACP and ACLU to immediately file suit against this crude racist attack.
We now openly offer ourselves to work with any group which opposes this move by Owens Corning. We are willing to file friend of the court briefs in legal action against this crude use of the courts to promote a "racist defense" for the asbestos companies.