Last March the New York Disability Law Blog posted on the the “Demolition of Workers’ Comp”, an excellent piece of investigative journalism co-produced by NPR and ProPublica. At that time, we highlighted that employer workers’ compensation costs were at a 25 year low. Despite employers paying less for workers’ comp, they still did awful things like deny an injured worker a prosthetic hand for the real one he lost on the job. Instead, the employer offered him a metal hook! I kid you not.
Now comes the second installment entitled “Inside Corporate America’s Campaign to Ditch Workers’ Comp” and the plight of injured workers seems bleaker than just six months ago.
A shrewd Texas corporate lawyer by the name of Bill Minick proudly proclaims “We’re talking about re-engineering one of the pillars of social justice…”(i.e.,Workers’ Compensation). Mess with the “pillars of social justice”?!
Really Bill? You may be the son of an evangelist, but you are not God!
There is nothing wrong with trying to reduce employer workers’ comp costs (even if it at a 25 year low). There is nothing wrong with promoting employee safety and appropriate return to work. There is nothing wrong with eliminating both employer and employee fraud. There is nothing wrong with elimination of inefficiencies in the system. Workers’ comp can always be improved.
But only a crazed zealot would attempt to tear down “one of the pillars of social justice” while making it all sound reasonable to legislatures and the public at large. One need only look to recent history to recognize the permanent harm crazed zealots can do. One need only look at the horrors workers’ comp “deform” has produced for injured workers so far. Beware!
After reading the the almost inconceivable, anti-worker provisions in the “Opt-out workers’ compensation plans” Minick, Walmart and McDonald’s propose, one can only conclude that states such as Texas and Oklahoma are travelling backwards to the days of “robber barons” exploiting injured workers to gorge on ever increasing profits. These are the types of abuses that the original workers’ compensation laws and “pillars of social justice” seeks to abolish.
Historic workplace tragedies such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and more recently, 9/11 are not forgotten. Workplace shootings seem to be almost daily occurrences in the nightly news. Progressive workers’ compensation laws, first proposed by Theodore Roosevelt, still serve the remedial and humanitarian goals of protecting the economic interests of both workers and employers.
Thankfully, Congress is watching. See the below letter from prominent members of Congress who are watching this issue closely.