En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Courier
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

9/11 Compensation Still in Limbo

 

A
$657.5 million settlement reached between the city and 9/11 rescue and cleanup
workers on March 11 must be renegotiated, a U.S. District Court Judge said.


Judge
Alvin K. Hellerstein rejected the proposed settlement on March 19 and stated,
in court, that he did so because the settlement did not offer enough
compensation to the workers for the illnesses they have suffered since they
worked at or near Ground Zero.


Hellerstein
added that he – as opposed to a claims administrator – would supervise any new
renegotiation and that the lawyer’s payout, about a third of the settlement,
should come out of the same fund that will pay the lawyers for the city,
leaving more for the injured workers.


“I think the
grounds on which [Hellerstein] rejected [the settlement] was strong,”
said Daniel Coates, an
immigration organizer at the community group
Make
The Road New York
, who has worked with many Queens-area cleanup workers. “But now the process will take longer given
the dire situations some of these workers find themselves in.”


According
to reports, close to 10,000 workers took part in the lawsuit against the city.
These workers claimed that because of the toxins and chemicals – such as
cement, glass dust, asbestos, fiberglass, alkaline, and lead – in the air at
Ground Zero, they developed respiratory problems including asthma, sinusitis,
rhinitis, persistent cough, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, as well as lung
scarring, lung cancer, gastrointestinal tract cancer, heart disease and
mesothelioma.


As
of March 31, 2009, more than 51,000 World Trade Center (WTC) responders
nationwide had met eligibility and enrolled in the World Trade
Center
medical monitoring
and treatment programs, according to Fred Blosser, a National Institutes for
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) spokesperson.


Some
of these workers have had to quit work because they are too sick. As of
September 11, 2009, at least 817 had died.


Following
Hellerstein’s rejection of the settlement, New York Congressmembers Carolyn
Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, authors of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and
Compensation Act – a stand alone bill not part of the Affordable Health Care
for America Act passed by Congress on Sunday, March 21 – reacted.


“The
uncertainty surrounding the settlement demonstrates yet again the urgent need
for Congress to pass the Zadroga Act, which would provide guaranteed health
care and an estimated $6 billion in compensation for those who lost their
health as a result of the 9/11 attacks,” Maloney and Nadler said. “We have a
moral obligation to help those who were injured or made sick by the attacks on
our nation.”


Local
Queens cleanup workers and their advocates
look forward to the new agreement.


“The first
settlement was a step forward,”
said Coates.
“We hope the second settlement will be better.”