Workers' compensation protects seriously injured Tennesseans from losing everything. It is a compromise that has protected workers in our state since 1919 and it is under attack. Governor Bill Haslam has introduced legislation that will drastically reduce benefits and keep insurance companies from facing a judge in the courts by creating a purely administrative system, much like unemployment is today.
The new system will have administrative judges appointed by the Governor. The cards will be stacked against every injured worker. The costs of this system are enormous and will be paid by taxpayers. In addition, if insurance companies get out of paying for injuries, then those costs will ultimately be paid by taxpayers through Medicare, TennCare and Social Security.
But, you wonder, don't the legislators care about the rights of citizens over those of big corporations and insurance companies? No, they don't. The Chairman of the House and Human Resources Committee yesterday was filmed saying he was going to "freight-train" the bill through the legislative process, regardless of what the opposing side has to say. Here is the link to the video of his remarks. Here is an article about the open-mic gaffe. In his remarks, Chairman Eldridge was responding to a letter to the editor that you can read here. When asked to explain his remarks, the Chairman refused to talk.
I was at the subcommittee meeting yesterday. The room was packed, standing room only. The crowd overflowed down the hall. Everyone was wearing stickers urging the subcommittee to vote no. Rep. Susan Lynn, the subcommittee chair, refused to hear from injured workers and pro-employee organizations. But, she did allow the administrator of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to testify. Talk about a one-sided debate.
Will you help me fight this? The bill is before the full Consumer and Human Resources Committee next Tuesday at 10 am at Legislative Plaza. If you will meet me at my office at 9:15 am. on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 we will gather a group at my office and walk to the meeting together (two blocks from the office). I will reimburse you if you have to pay to park. I hope you can join me because the room next week will be much larger and we will need more people to show the committee that both sides should be heard and no one needs such an important piece of legislation to be "rammed" through government.
In the meantime, before Tuesday, please contact your legislators and let them know to vote know. Here is a link for an easy way to do that. The letter is already written, just insert your email, address and zip code.
I hope to see you Tuesday to help us save workers' compensation in Tennessee.