Governor Bill Haslam wants to reform our state workers' compensation system to make Tennessee more Business Friendly. Not fairer or worker friendly - he and his legislature don't give a deleted expletive about the safety and health of workers. We noticed that last year when they went union busting.
This reform is based on a consultant's report from last August. The one good thing I can say about this report is that it shot down the thoroughly horrible Texas idea of allowing some employers to 'opt out' of the workers' compensation system. It seems the Texas employers who 'opt out' are commonly making their employees sign a waiver of negligence to get injury coverage. This leaves the employer no incentive to make his workplace reasonably safe.
The Governor's idea of having a single state division to handle workers' compensation, although it means building a new state agency to the tune of $600,000, except for one little detail - the governor gets to appoint the administrator. Can we say 'stacking the deck'? According to Tom Humphrey,
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The court system would get involved only after an administrative law judge in the Division of Workers Compensation, housed in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development with a boss appointed by the governor, had made its decision. Then there could be an appeal - but it's widely assumed that a fouled-up decision warranting a successful appeal to the courts would be a rare thing.
Yeah, right! I wouldn't trust this proposal under any governor, much less in the current political atmosphere. Our legislature has already shown a nasty willingness to throw the disabled, poor, and elderly under the bus. What a wonderful way to insure that Temporary Total Disability is never enough to feed a worker's family! You can also make sure that a person with a Permanent Partial Disability can never make a decent living.
Let's stop stacking the deck against Tennessee's workers.