Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.
Don Judge is executive secretary of the Montana State AFL-CIO in Helena.
Don Judge: "For many years, neither the union nor the workers knew that the dust had asbestos in it, but we asked the company to clean it up. In 1964, the union made a request to the Department of Health to do something about the dust levels. We also asked that the company install showers and change rooms so the men could get rid of what they called "nuisance dust" before they went home.
"For years the company had handed out little masks to the men to wear. But they got easily clogged and the men didn't wear them. No one at Grace ever tried to enforce any policy about wearing the masks.
"It wasn't until 1979 that the workers and the union were told the dust contained particles of tremolite. Grace finally installed two showers for more than 100 men. But by that time, Grace had already built a wet mill process that drastically cut down on the dust.
"Grace is going to have to own up. They need to pay for diagnosis and treatment, lost income, plus the pain and suffering of the victims of asbestos exposure. They need to make sure the former sites and the community are tested and cleaned, so as to make it clear that it is a safe community.
"They also need to pay the penalty for this intentional poisoning. Thousands of workers across the country were exposed to tremolite by Grace's callous actions. The EPA should pursue potential criminal charges against those responsible."
Copyright © 2000 HCN and Mark Matthews