In this paper I'll describe the mechanisms by which the very high mortality
rate among employees and local citizen became a criminal case, the
biggest lawsuit in Europe against the asbestos industry. A local grassroots
movement played a pivotal role in this case. Starting with the notion that
criminalization of the management and victimization of the workers are
processes that evolve simultaneously, I'll argue that the highly damaging
working conditions were no longer treated as a "normal" state of affairs,
when the people involved realized that they actually were victims. This
change represented the result of the combined action of several factors,
among which collective action by Trade Unions and AFeVA (association of
victims) played a major role. The local grassroots movement gave to the
workers and the citizens the opportunity to understand that they all shared
a common destiny. The awareness process moved along two axes: from
denial to acknowledgement, from individual perception of the "normality"
of an "abnormal" state of affairs to a collective recognition that the state of
affairs was abnormal indeed.