For over 100 years, workers rights have been covered by Workers’ Compensation, a pillar of our economy, protecting workers when they get hurt and giving employers affordable predictability.
In 1911,Wisconsin passed the first workers’ compensation law in the United States and it has remained the model for other states across the country and even globally. Workers compensation works quietly and efficiently in the background helping to keep businesses running for the benefit of employers and employees. It is a successful public-private partnership designed to manage the risk of industrial injuries in the modern age. While government laws outline the benefits and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development oversees the process, workers’ comp claims are largely administered in the private sector between employers, workers’ compensation insurance companies, the injured worker and his/her attorney.
Gov. Walker’s 2017 Budget Bill proposes eliminating a key component of our workers’ compensation law, the Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC). This three-person Commission (LIRC) serves as the independent second-level administrative review of worker’s compensation decisions. The Budget proposes to eliminate LIRC by transferring its jurisdiction over Worker’s Compensation to one person: The Administrator of Department of Administration’s Division of Hearings and Appeals. The Administrator would assume this task without being provided any additional staff. This move saves little revenue and threatens employers and employees with instability and increased costs.
The claim that eliminating LIRC will save taxpayer money is hollow. Workers’ compensation is almost entirely funded by insurance companies fees and employer premiums.
To some, this unnecessary elimination of LIRC is one more step toward the dismantling of workers’ compensation system in favor of complete privatization, an employer dictated plan without government oversight or parameters. Essentially, a return to the Gilded Age Robber Barons of the 1800s. Eliminating LIRC will result in business uncertainty and unintended consequences such as civil litigation in county circuit courts as more cases directly file for appeal instead of being disposed of administratively.
The Wisconsin legislative Joint Finance Committee will be deliberating on the Budget Bill for several weeks starting May 3, 2017. Please call the following JFC legislators and ask them to protect workers rights and employer stability by keeping the Labor and Industry Review Commission.
Sen Alberta Darling, R (Co-Chair) (608) 266-5830
Rep John Nygren, R (Co-Chair) (608) 266-2343
Rep Dale Kooyenga, R (Vice-Chair) (608) 266-9180
Sen Luther Olsen, R (Vice-Chair) (608) 266-0751
Sen Sheila Harsdorf, R (608) 266-7745
Sen Howard Marklein, R (608) 266-0703
Sen Tom Tiffany, R (608) 266-0703
Sen Leah Vukmir, R (608) 266-2512
Rep Amy Loudenbeck, R (608) 266-9967
Rep Mary Felzkowski, R (608) 266-7694
Rep Mark Born, R (608) 266-2540
Rep Mike Rohrkaste, R (608) 266-5719