Friends, a matter of hours ago Bernie Banton, aged 61, died. Who the hell is Bernie Banton you may ask if you're from overseas?
He was a victim of asbestosis, one who, despite the fact that he was dying from the disease, with Union help, took on James Hardie, one of the world's biggest building products companies on behalf of all those who contracted asbestosis while working for the company or through using their once dangerous products.
James Hardie, in common with most capitalist companies whose products have been found to dangerous, fought the claims being made against it by their ex-factory worker. They even moved to Holland in an effort to avoid their responsibility. But finally, after years of legal action, justice prevailed and a large fund was set up to compensate those whose lives were cut short or made miserable by the lethal asbestos fibres which Hardies once used in their sheeting and cladding products (products which I also used during an early part of my life and which could yet affect my own health).
Bernie's life shows what can be done by an ordinary, humble person if they have enough conviction. It also shows the importance of unions in protecting the rights of workers. And it also clearly demonstrates the general soullessness of legal entities called 'companies' and why they must be held to account for the damage they all too often cause to workers, consumers and the environment in their obsession with making profits.
Bernie, a battler who battled so hard for others for so long, is to be given a State funeral.
P.S. His passing is a far, far greater loss than the recent demise of John Howard and his whole Party!