Labor unions maintain a strong leadership role in protecting and educating workers about hazardous working conditions, including exposure to asbestos. Unions have helped drive legislation demanding safer working conditions while assisting workers who already have been harmed by asbestos. Labor unions are crucial leaders in the fight against asbestos. They are responsible for publicly exposing the truth about the dangers of asbestos exposure, including the fact that manufactures knew and tried to conceal the information.
History of Asbestos in US Industries
Before the danger of asbestos exposure was known, this naturally occurring mineral was highly sought after because of its strength and fireproof capabilities. It is an extremely versatile material and also very affordable. Called the magic mineral, asbestos played a huge part of the economic and construction boom after World War II. It was widely used in railroads, shipbuilding, mining, construction, and automobile production. It also was used in thousands of products, including cement, insulation, roofing materials, vehicle clutches, gaskets and brakes, caulking compounds and plasters, and fire-retardant coatings and paints.
Asbestos literally was used everywhere while unsuspecting workers and citizens were totally unaware of the dangers. The public was the last to know. Medical researchers eventually began publishing reports that warned about the toxic nature of asbestos and the many health issues connected to the material. Respiratory diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma were caused by exposure to asbestos.
Labor Unions Step In
As many workers became sick with serious health issues, labor unions started to take notice and began investigating toxic asbestos and health problems among workers.
Protecting employees from unsafe working conditions is one of the many goals of labor unions. Over 70 years ago, labor unions began warning workers and the public about the danger of asbestos. It soon became obvious that big businesses used their power and influence to continue selling asbestos, which put profits ahead of the health and safety of workers.
It is disturbing to know that many workers were exposed to toxic asbestos by their employers even though companies knew about the toxic nature of the material and still decided not to notify workers or set newer safety standards.
For many decades, labor unions have been extremely important in requiring Congress to enact new asbestos legislation and protect workers. Members of Congress have tried several times in the last decade to make it harder for workers to hold asbestos companies liable for their negligence. Labor unions have helped to fight back against such legislation.