Thursday, November 16, 2006

Aetna Faces National Boycott Over Slavery

Aetna Faces National Boycott Over Slavery

National ( - Aetna Insurance Company is faced with a national boycott of its health insurance products as a result of their writing life insurance policies on the lives of enslaved Africans in the 1850's. Boycott organizers are demanding that Aetna settle a consolidated class action lawsuit by creating a Trust Fund to benefit descendants of enslaved Africans. The lawsuit is named Farmer-Paellmann, et al v. Brown & Williamson, et al. It is on appeal in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, IL. News of the boycott comes just days before "open season" begins -- a time during which government and private company employees can change their insurance carriers. Open season runs from Monday, November 13 through Monday, December 11, 2006 for some institutions.

A press conference to announce the boycott was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, November 15, 2006, at 4 p.m., on the West Front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. It will kick-off a campaign of online and local distribution of information urging employees to not use Aetna as their insurance carrier. The press effort is sponsored by the Restitution Study Group, a New York nonprofit.

The boycott effort supports a resolution passed by Blacks In Government (BIG), the nation's largest and oldest public service employees' organization. BIG has chapters in every state made up of federal, State and municipal employees. Black employees constitute approximately 3.4 million (17%) of the federal workforce. BIG's resolution demands that Aetna create a Trust Fund to benefit slave descendants with a portion of the funds going to assist African American Healthcare Institutions actively working to alleviate the health disparities plaguing African American families and communities. The resolution asks that government employees consider changing their insurers if Aetna fails to create the Trust Fund. The resolution was introduced by Pat Swailes, Life Member of BIG, and was passed at BIG's National Delegates Assembly in August 2006.

"Aetna benefited financially from insuring the lives of enslaved Africans, with slave owners as the beneficiaries, as if the Africans were farm animals or office equipment. Now the company refuses to pay restitution for that inhumane practice that financed domestic slavery. They left us no choice but to boycott," said Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, Executive Director of the Restitution Study Group and lead plaintiff in the pending class action lawsuit. Farmer-Paellmann initiated the effort in 2000 to secure restitution from corporations complicit in slavery after she unearthed copies of slave insurance policies written by Aetna. She alleges that Aetna promised to apologize and pay restitution for writing the policies, but later backed down on paying restitution that was to be an increase in college and university scholarships for descendants of enslaved Africans. Farmer-Paellmann later learned that Aetna wrote an insurance policy on her enslaved ancestor Abel from South Carolina when she read the California Insurance Department's Slavery Era Registry published in 2002.

A coalition of community organizations, elected officials, civil and human rights advocates, and lawyers from the lawsuit will attend the press conference next week.

For more information about the boycott "Open Season = Change Season", a copy of the BIG Aetna resolution, and information about the pending lawsuit visit:

Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, Restitution Study Group: (917) 365-3007,
Bruce Afran, Esq.: (609) 924-2075,
Carl Mayer, Esq.: (609) 462-7979,

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