What’s Wrong With Workers’ Comp In America
By Sam Gold
Three words: Money, Power & Politics. Why do they even call it Workers’ Compensation? It’s certainly not about workers, it’s about insurance companies and their financial bottom lines, and the last thing in the world it does is adequately compensate workers for their occupational injuries which in many cases are due to the negligent actions and behavior of their employers. But hey, they have a “Get Out Of Jail FREE” card called the “Exclusive Remedy!"
When a worker can no longer perform his normal job duties, the law says he must be compensated for his inability to compete in the future job market. But what the insurers throw at the injured worker simply amounts to “Chump Change,” wholly inadequate and certainly not enough to make a difference to the worker.
These corporate behemoths in many cases will embark on a scorched earth policy of the 3 S’s - Stall, Starve, Settle; stall the legal proceedings as long as possible with frivolous litigation, starve out the worker until he and his family are thrown out into the streets or are forced to apply for welfare, and then settle the claim for literally pennies on the dollar.
Why won’t things change? Well it’s all about the power of money. The insurers use their million dollar war chests to influence the decisions of legislators around the country. Do you think these legislators are going to listen to the plight of their poor working stiff constituents who have no money to give them or listen to the wants of those who will gladly fill their re-election campaign coffers and special PAC’s with millions of dollars in corporate cash?
This is not a problem just facing Californians, but workers in all of our 50 states and in Canada too. Until our elected legislators are ready to follow their consciences and finally create a level playing field by passing some meaningful legislation to help the working man, instead of following the corporate money trail, nothing will change and we’ll still be stuck in a seedy system of corporate fraud and corruption.
And those who we think are there to protect us are equally involved as well. County district attorneys are on the receiving end of Department of Insurance money grants supposedly to fight fraud - but this money originates with the insurance carriers themselves. So who do you think the DA is going to listen to when some poor injured worker goes to them with a complaint about insurer fraud? I seriously doubt that they will bite the hand that feeds them.
And while we’re on the subject, how about those DA’s who go after innocent taxpayers with phony prosecutions. Don’t say that it doesn’t happen because it does - every day.
And here we are in the 21st century, where it’s not just about work injuries but with the advent of biotechnology. What happens when workers contract occupational diseases due to their exposure to genetically engineered compounds which the employers refuse to reveal anything about, stating the overriding need to protect their “trade secrets?"
Don’t you think that it’s time that someone looked out for us, the workers of America on whose backs this country was founded?
Sam Gold is an injured worker who is also volunteer director of the first national injured workers advocacy organization, Injured Workers Television Network.