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National Worker’s Compensation: Big Brother Where Art Thou?

Our Founding Fathers created an incredible country with Federalism protecting and expanding regional and state rights. After 241 years we must make changes to the present American Dream. We need independence from state compensation inequities and inabilities if we are going to heal as a nation.

The past month has been immensely victorious for the workers of the US. From Tom Perez’s election as DNC Chair to the Puzder displacement. Labor’s victories make this an auspicious time to promote a National Worker’s Disability Compensation Amendment to balance state compensation inequities, stabilize and increase benefits while avoiding state tax financial meltdowns as an excuse to starve workers.

Workers disability compensation is a jigsaw puzzle of pieces that don’t fit for the workers. Workers say you’re lucky if you lose an arm in Illinois compared to Louisiana. Why? According to a study by ProPublica in Illinois you can receive up to $440,000 for that faithful limb compared to $126,000 in Louisiana. Are people’s arms different in each state? No, just the political representation of workers. It’s ghastly to think that a permanent disability is worth less than some new cars politicians are driving. Federalism fails the American workforce when state political power determines human worth especially as power is fluid, constantly changing hands. Human worth can change during an election cycle ushering injured workers into a morass of financial and medical issues. A national amendment based on the highest compensation for injury protects workers throughout their entire tragic maze to recovery.

A national amendment would protect workers from unforeseen decreases to their coverage which creates insult to injury. According to ProPublica, since 2002 33 states have decreased workers compensation and wages even though inflation and the cost of living have risen dramatically. The federal government ensures COLA raises to compensate for inflation increases yet state workers compensation isn’t required to do the same thing? COLA raises allow injured workers on fixed incomes, incomes that are 25-50% less than their customary salary, to continue to survive while healing. The federal government’s expertise and powerful ability to lobby and appropriate funding for COLA and inflation is a vital guarantee for injured workers.

State governments lack the financial stability to ensure workers compensation as witnessed in the municipal bankruptcy plague of 2008 and beyond. California is the hotbed of liberal attitudes and policies for workers yet they are a leading state to decrease compensation benefits. Why? They have the highest number of municipal and county bankruptcies in the country. A state’s financial debacle creates pressure on the budget leaving injured workers a liability not an asset. Active workers and their needs take priority. The federal government, even as federal workers were laid off during the Great Recession, maintained adequate compensation for injured workers including COLA raises. Federalism will continue to fail for workers as states just don’t have the resources the federal government can make if needed for worker survival.

Protecting, healing and compensating workers is a call to action. Federal action. Big Brother, where art thou?

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