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Privatizing Workers Compensation

Privatizing workers compensation is the goal of an employer trade organization according to an article in Mother Jones by Molly Redden.  The lobbying group is behind drafting laws to privatize workers compensation process by allowing employers to "opt out" of the state administered system.  The employer and employee would write their own rules (wonder who hires the fancy attorneys to pick the rules) and then handle it themselves with no government interference.  Nearly two dozen major corporations are bankrolling a quiet, multistate lobbying effort to pass laws making it harder for workers hurt on the job to access lost wages and medical care -- the benefits collectively known as workers' compensation.

The companies have financed a lobbying group, the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers' Compensation (ARAWC), that has already helped write legislation in one state, Tennessee. Richard Evans, the group's executive director, told an insurance journal in November that the corporations ultimately want to change workers' comp laws in all 50 states. 

Laws mandating workers' comp arose at the turn of the 20th century as a bargain between employees and employers: If a worker suffered an injury on the job, the employer would pay his medical bills and partial wages while he recovered. In exchange, the worker gave up his right to sue for negligence.  Workers compensation benefits are less than civil damages, but the employee does not have to prove any fault or negligence, just causation - that the injury happened at work.  Fair deal for both.

ARAWC's mission is to pass laws privatizing workers compensation by allowing employers to opt out of the traditional workers' compensation plans that almost every state requires businesses to carry. Employers opting out would still be compelled to purchase workers' comp plans. But they would be allowed to write their own rules governing when, for how long, and for which reasons an injured employee can access medical benefits and wages.  Privatization would not provide consistent, affordable or caring workers compensation benefits. 

McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin represents employees hurt at work, especially workers with serious cervical or lumbar disc injuries resulting in neck or back surgery.  Our firm is one of several in Wisconsin that is trying to defeat Wisconsin assembly bill 21 that is the first step down the road of taking away injured employee protections in our high quality workers compensation laws passed over one hundred years ago.  If they want to take away worker's rights, they should do it in an open and honest manner.  Run for election and respect the people by telling us what you have planned; instead they hid their intentions and then snuck the demolition of worker's compensation deep inside he regular budget bill.

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