Harry Payne on worker's comp bill

Injured on the job, injured by the State:

House bill 709, "Protect and Put NC Back to Work," is a shining example of the latest in that dark art where the bill title says one thing and the text of the bill does the opposite. A more accurate title would be "House Bill 709, An Act Pushed by Insurance Companies to Reduce Payments to Workers Permanently Disabled on the Job and to Tilt a Delicately Balanced Legal System Against the Interests of Every Injured Worker."

As a (former) factory manager, one of my primary functions was to monitor and improve workplace safety. During the best of times, when the budget allowed for optimum staffing levels of experienced machine operators and fixers, keeping injuries down was a challenge.

When that budget belt tightened, and that same production had to somehow be accomplished by fewer and newer people, operating machinery that was no longer receiving regularly scheduled maintenance, the safety approach was less like a "formula" and more like a rugby match where you can only hope to keep enough players on the field to finish the game.

And as to this:

Despite the fact that North Carolina enjoys average rates for workers' comp insurance, and the business climate is ranked at or near No. 1 in the nation, business owners have somehow been persuaded there is urgent need for reform. They have been fed with stories of malingerers and rich lawyers, but somehow the crippled old folks bent by injury that this bill really hammers are not a part of the picture.

I can say from experience that "malingerers" are the exception to the rule. In many cases the physicians that treat injured workers will only take them out of work for 3-5 days, often sending them back while they are still in the process of healing. The ones who are kept out for longer periods are usually in pretty bad shape. Luckily, I never had an employee lose a limb or eye, but I've seen a few fingers go missing. It ain't pretty, folks.

It is dangerously easy to accept procedural access and evidentiary changes that will tilt the system against the injured as reform, or to dismiss them as just words in a book or just legal mumbo-jumbo. You will only feel the difference when you are injured and, while struggling to heal, seek answers to desperate questions. But it will be too late then.

It's also dangerously easy for the rank and file to overlook something that negatively impacts a small minority of fellow citizens, especially if we can't envision ever being exposed to the same scenario ourselves. But that small minority is counting on us to think outside our own personal box, and try to imagine their pain. This is the fabric of a responsible and empathic society.


The Bill's Real Title

Protect Corporations and Get Your Lazy Ass Back to Work bill


The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

You must be a socialist

Happy weekend, man. Hope you're doing okay these days.