Amid signs that the Congress, once again, may be unable to agree on legislation to establish a national trust fund to compensate seriously ill former asbestos workers and their families, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) will sponsor its second annual Asbestos Awareness Day conference on April 1 at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Millions of Americans were exposed to deadly asbestos until its use was banned in the 1980s. Their lawsuits have clogged the court system, effectively blocking resolution of their claims. At the same time, many huge corporations and insurance companies face liabilities and future claims on their revenues that cannot be resolved. Thus, for the past three years, Congress has considered various bills that would take the claims out of the court system by establishing a national trust fund to compensate the victims.

However, the victims, their former employers and insurers have widely differing views as to what would constitute a fair and adequate trust fund. Each has strong allies in Congress, and the legislation, like the claims in court, is bogged down in highly partisan debate. One version was defeated in a procedural vote on February 14, but it could be reintroduced later this session. On the other hand, due to a tight schedule in this election year, the bill may be shelved until after the November elections.

Asbestos manufacturers have been the bill’s main proponents while victims and their families, who are not opposed in principle to a trust fund, have strongly opposed this version. Insurers have wavered but may be lining up behind the current version on the theory that they are unlikely to get a bill more to their liking. The AFL-CIO has consistently opposed the current version.

The ADAO conference will give victims a chance to educate a wider audience about the bill’s shortcomings and, possibly, provide a window into the broader media. Information about he conference and registration materials are available at the ADAO website.