This past Monday, I shared with you an alarming story covered by ProPublica
entitled "Inside Corporate America's Campaign to Ditch Workers'
The article is worth a close read. When I read it, I was shocked to learn
there is a deliberate and well-financed plan to dismantle public workers’
compensation systems one state at a time. The plan is already in operation
in Texas and Oklahoma.
For those who scoff at the idea that we could ever have an "opt out"
program in California, consider this—we already have a version called
"Carve Outs." See Labor Code 3201.5 (construction industry)
and Labor Code Section 3201.7 (all other industries, including the State
of California) for more information.
"Carve Outs" permit unionized workers and employers to create
an alternative system for benefit delivery and dispute resolution, but
ultimately, the WCAB in San Francisco can review any unresolved disputes.
But will that be the case in the future?
Since "cost savings" seems to be the main focus of any reformulations
or "reforms" of California's workers' compensation system
over the last 25 years, it’s a legitimate question to ask: when
are opt-outs going to arrive in Sacramento as the latest idea to "improve
the system"? Workers may want to keep their ears to the ground.
After all, ProPublica and NPR obtained the injury plans of over 100 companies
who have “opted out" of the workers' compensation systems
in Texas and Oklahoma, and conducted an analysis of those plans compared
to the state workers’ compensation systems. Guess what they found?
The plans "almost universally have lower benefits, more restrictions,
and virtually no independent oversight."
So for those of you who wonder when can we expect "opt out" plans
to be pushed here in California, consider this: widely-regarded mastermind
of the Texas and Oklahoma plans, Bill Minick, is scheduled to speak in
Las Vegas at the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference
& Expo in November 2015. His topic is alarming, but perhaps not surprising
for the observant. "Opt-out Alternatives to Workers' Comp –
Two Views on Texas and Oklahoma and Beyond.”
"And Beyond" is a phrase the workers of California should be
very concerned about—because this is one thing that won’t
stay in Vegas.