Labor Legislative Conference held last week in Raleigh

Last week union workers throughout the state of North Carolina convened for the 2011 Labor Legislative Conference in Raleigh. At that meeting, the unions called for a “Working People’s Agenda” that included creating more jobs and protecting workers throughout the state. For more on the program, read this article entitled “Workers Unite to Promote a Working People’s Agenda”.

Want to guess what one of the hot topics was? If you guessed Workers’ Compensation benefits – you guessed right. The insurance and business lobbies want legislators to cut benefits to injured workers and eliminate the requirement that workers go back to “suitable employment” after they are injured. In other words, a teacher could be forced to take a job as a Wal-Mart greeter if it was available to them, regardless of the fact that this is a completely different position than what they are qualified to do.

Workers’ Compensation benefits are extremely important to workers who are injured at work or who become sick because of their working conditions.  The employer or the insurance company that is hired by the employer is responsible for paying out timely and quick benefits to these workers in exchange for the worker giving up the right to sue the employer.  (Except for in very, very limited exceptions – see the Woodson Case)

Not only is the Comp system in North Carolina important for the lives of injured workers, but it is also important for the taxpayers.  If the insurance companies are able to convince the legislators to cut benefits to workers – not only will that take money out of the North Carolina economy, but it will also cost the taxpayers billions of dollars as these workers get shifted onto public assistance such as medicare and food stamps.

Right now we have an efficient and fair workers comp system in North Carolina – adequate benefits are given to workers at a modest cost to employers.  For those that would claim that the Comp system is hurting the business climate in North Carolina, consider that in 2010, Site magazine rated North Carolina’s business climate as the very best in the nation.

In my humble opinion, if it ain’t broke – there is no need to fix it.  We don’t need Workers’ Compensation Reform in North Carolina.  Tell the legislators to ignore the call of insurance company lobbyists and focus on what IS important – bringing more jobs to North Carolina.