The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Heroes one day
– despised the next

Jun 7, 2004

Thousands of workers who filed workers compensation claims after 9/11 have still not received a single penny. Insurance companies, employers and the New York State Workers' Compensation Board have challenged the big majority of the claims filed.

The dust cloud that covered lower Manhattan after the collapse of the World Trade Center contained asbestos, lead, mercury and other harmful substances. Anyone who breathed this air in the days, weeks and even months afterwards got these dangerous substances in their lungs and throughout their bodies.

One report says the Trade Center collapse "caused the largest acute environmental disaster that has ever befallen New York City."

Those who worked at Ground Zero soon after the collapse – firefighters, rescue workers and construction workers – received the worst concentrations of fumes. Health officials estimate that 40,000 rescue workers alone breathed this tainted air.

Many of them have come down with respiratory ailments like asthma, and other problems like high blood pressure, heart attacks and chronic fatigue. Most are too sick to work; and their medical bills are piling up.

Even so, insurers and employers are refusing to pay many workers' medical claims. They tie up sick workers in court for months and months.

They don't try to deny the poisonous mix that was in the air after 9/11. They just pretend that the workers' illnesses were not a direct result of that poison – ignoring all the medical evidence.

Officials called all of these workers heroes at the time – but when the workers fell ill because of their heroic efforts, they were thrown aside, without any aid. It's the kind of cynicism and hypocrisy we've come to expect from business and government.