Big business has been working behind the scenes to do what it does best: Lobby Congress and state legislatures to screw the little guy for profit.
The Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC) is a lobbying group funded by Walmart, Lowes, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Kohls, Sysco Foods and several insurance companies, among others, that want to see workers’ compensation laws changed in their favor.
Under their proposals, states would act more like Texas and Oklahoma, as if that’s ever a good thing, and allow employers to opt out of state-approved workers’ comp plans in favor of plans where they write the rules for themselves.
Certainly giant box stores and defense contractors have the best interests of their employees at heart, right? Maybe they feel workers’ comp doesn’t do enough to safeguard people injured while working for them.
Turns out that’s not the case. Go figure. They want to be able to minimize costs by decreasing benefits and eliminating employees from qualifying. Just like in Texas and Oklahoma.
They are the only states that currently allow companies to use these “write your own rules” policies, with the state-run workers’ comp plans being voluntary. Here are some of the highlights of that failure to the common worker written by Walmart:
- Employers are allowed to govern when, for how long, and for which reasons an injured employee can access medical benefits and wages.
- In Texas, Walmart has written a plan that allows the company to select the physician an employee sees and the arbitration company that hears disputes.
- No coverage for asbestos exposure.
- An obscure section of the contract excludes any employee who was injured due to his “participation” in an assault from collecting benefits unless the assault was committed in defense of Walmart’s “business or property.” It is up to Walmart to interpret what “participation” means.
A 2012 survey found that fewer than half of Texas companies provided long-term benefits to seriously injured employees or to the families of those killed at work. Half of plans capped benefits long before a seriously injured employee could recover.
Texas does have a voluntary program that covers employees’ families and has no cap on benefits, but the plan is more expensive and seems to require the employer to actually care enough about the people who really make their companies successful to spend a few extra bucks on them.
The lobbying platform of these companies will be coming to a state near you before long. Hopefully you have some protection in the form of a Democrat in the Governors mansion if your legislature only speaks Republican.