Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act Bullet Points
1. We are pleased with the current system in place in Illinois and are unwilling to bargain away our members’ rights from a system that works well for our members.
2. Unlike many adjacent states that have inadequate Workers’ Compensation laws, labor organizations have fought for and earned the benefits currently in effect in Illinois for the benefit of our members.
3. We are concerned that any change in the structure of the Workers’ Compensation benefits could have an adverse effect on safety. Employers spend considerable amounts of money with safety programs and risk management training because of their concern to avoid lawsuits and injury claims. Minimizing the exposure in injury claims will motivate employers to lessen their investment in worker safety.
4. We do not want employers to have the ability to use the Workers’ Compensation system as a bargaining chip during collective bargaining for other issues involving wages and benefits.
5. We do not have, nor can our Funds afford, the additional manpower that will be necessary to gain expertise on the Workers’ Compensation laws, to participate in the bargaining process, and oversee the claims process when our members no longer have the right to legal representation from the inception of a claim.
6. We are concerned about cost shifting to our Health and Welfare, and Pension, Funds. Particularly in smaller claims, our members may very well circumvent the whole Workers’ Compensation claims process and simply submit their medical and disability claims directly to their Union Fund, rather than as a Workers’ Compensation that is fraught with obstacles and steps that do not presently exist. These increased claims could have a devastating impact on the fiscal viability of our already troubled Funds.
7. We are concerned that a changed system will result in one that is paid for and controlled by the same employer groups that are ultimately responsible to pay the benefits to our members. This would result in a very one-sided system to the detriment of the very members that we are fiduciaries to protect.
8. We are concerned that our members will lose their right to choose their own medical doctor through negotiation. This is a fundamental right that can not be bargained away. Once again, this will pressure injured members to submit claims directly to our Funds instead of going through the Workers’ Compensation process. This will potentially cost our Funds hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, in medical payments for which there will be no right to reimbursement because members will claim that their treatment is NOT related to a work injury.
9. While the current finders of fact are impartial, appointed state employees, we are concerned about the obvious lack of impartiality of fact-finders who are paid by the employers and their insurance companies. Once again, this would be a very one-sided system that we could never support.
10. Our members would be at an extreme disadvantage to negotiate their claims without the right to counsel, against company-trained representatives.
11. Our members would be at a disadvantage when compared to those non-union workers who would still be afforded their rights and protections that exist under the current Workers’ Compensation system.
12. It is our Union’s responsibility to be current on all laws related to the collective bargaining process, picketing laws, right to strike, etc. so that we can effectively negotiate for fair wages, fringe benefits, working conditions and the like. It is unfair to even consider any type of collective bargaining requirement for Workers’ Compensation benefits. The law provides adequate protection for both the employer and the injured employee already. And where there are disputes or conflicts, our members, like all injured workers in Illinois, have the right to legal counsel that can resolve their disputes. This should not be changed.
13. The State of Illinois has been built on the backs of union workers since the Industrial Revolution. We have long established a history and reputation as a strong union state. Supporting any legislation that would somehow compromise or lessen the legal rights of our workers would simply be contrary to our mission of protecting our members to the full extent of the law; especially those who have already been victimized by the perils of their trade.
14. We understand that changes have been contemplated for the law concerning causation in Workers’ Compensation cases. The standard of proof does not need to be changed. Our members face difficult challenges in Workers’ Compensation claims already. Making the right to entitlement even more difficult will only further burden their efforts to receive fair compensation and necessarily have a direct impact on our Health and Welfare Funds as legitimate injury claims end up being paid for by our Funds.
15. The establishment of reduced fee schedules for medical doctors will have a negative effect on the Workers’ Compensation system. Good doctors may refuse to treat patients that are involved in Workers’ Compensation claims because they cannot earn a fair amount of money to justify their surgical and post-surgical commitments to these patients and the cost of operating their practices. Once again, the injured member who seeks the best medical care will rely upon our Health and Welfare Funds to the gross detriment of our Funds’ economic survival.
16. Any consideration to change this system should be done via the Agreed Bill Process so that all interested parties can come to the table and have a thorough opportunity to voice their opinions, concerns and support for their respective position. This is the only way that the legislature should ever even contemplate any changes to the system of justice that our members, and all citizens in the State of Illinois, depend on so heavily to provide justice when a serious injury on the job occurs.