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Ward Merdes
Ward Merdes
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Worker's Compensation Change Hurt Working Alaskans

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Republicans Benefit Big Business, Sticking It To The Working Man/Woman.. Again.

Republicans change workplace rules in favor of industry … again. [Surprise, surprise]

Alaska’s Republican majority in the Senate recently changed workplace rules in favor of industry … again. They hammered the working man … again. While we have grown to expect this conduct, this most recent one was particularly sneaky.

Let me explain.

Most folks know that if they are hurt because of their employer’s negligence, they have to pursue a Worker’s Compensation (WC) claim. They are NOT allowed to sue their employer for negligence. By being jammed into a WC claim, injured workers are ensured of recovery – just not very much of it. It’s like forced starvation. A worker can expect to receive not “just compensation” but rather about 60% thereof, the tiny “schedule of benefits.”

So, picture this: You get injured at work. You’re blinded because your employer didn’t close a valve. You might ask how much is your eyesight worth. “Hold on one second. Let me check the schedule of benefit and I’ll tell you just how much your eyesight is worth…” I don’t know about you, but my eyesight is worth a lot more than a few hundred thousand dollars. Does anybody else find this scheme incredibly cold and just plain wrong? “Schedule of benefits” – One size fits all. Oh dear Lord.

Anyway, our fine Republican Alaskan Legislature recently changed the playing field, tilting it even further against working Alaskans. Now, it is not just the employer who can jam you (the injured worker) into the WC quagmire, it is ALL of the people responsible for your safety.

You see, protecting big industry campaign contributors – our Republican Legislature expanded the “exclusivity” provision of Alaska’s worker’s compensation laws to cover all who “may be liable” for your injuries. This means that you are “exclusively” jammed into WC for all injuries in the workplace.

Think this through. I’m impressed by how sneaky the Republicans were on this one. Now, injured Alaskans can no longer bring a claim against the “owner” of the oil field: Arco, BP, Conoco, etc. like they could before. If the owner made the oilfield unsafe, you can no longer sue the owner for your injuries.

Remember, before the Republicans’ most recent assault on your rights, if the “owner” made the oil field unsafe, you could sue the owner. Now, the Republicans have ensured that you’re (again) stuck with nothing but a WC claim – and a bad one at that.

By protecting the big business “owners,” our Republican Legislature has gone a long, long way toward give corporate hand-outs and making the workplace more dangerous for working Alaskans. What incentive does the “owner” have to make your workplace safe, if all you can do is file a WC claim?

Ironically, the evil in this scheme is most evident by viewing simple human nature – something that Republicans profess to understand. For example, when you take police off the street, we all know what happens: traffic is MORE dangerous, not less. Absent cops, people drive faster, not slower. Hence, when the Republicans strip your right to sue the workplace owners for creating a dangerous workplace, do you really think their incentive is to make it more safe? Get real. Anyone with the brains God gave a chicken knows that the minute owners are no longer threatened by plaintiff attorneys suing them for unsafe work environments, the owners will ignore safety rules and subject working Alaskans to even more dangerous conditions. That’s human nature. That’s also how big business saves money ,,, at your expense.

But hey – it’s your choice. After thinking this through, go ahead and continue believing that the Republicans are looking out for you. Continue applauding their “trickle-down” mentality. Continue voting Republican. All I ask is that you keep an eye out for your own safety as you do it. After this most recent move by the Republicans, be assured that nobody else is looking out for you.