The Senate passed ESB 5566 last weekend, a good workers’ compensation bill that will move Washington closer to the national mainstream, benefiting both injured workers and employers. The Washington Research Council last year published Mainstreaming Workers’ Compensation: Reforms for 2010. The bill refines several of our recommendations and represents a major step forward for the state.
The Seattle Times this morning gives the Senate bill a solid endorsement.They note the system’s rising costs and labor opponent’s lack of viable alternatives. With respect to union opposition to voluntary settlement options, the Times editorial makes this important point:
…there is to be an option for certain workers to take their benefits in lump sums, which in the long run will save the state money.
Organized labor does not like the lump-sum idea, arguing that injured workers are in no position to judge their own interests. The bill, however, would have the offers reviewed by the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, where Labor has the same representation as business. A worker who accepted a settlement would also have 30 days to cancel it.
The Everett Herald also weighs in with a strong editorial, specifically taking on the overwrought challenges to the bill.
Seeking to slap a “radical” label on a sensible, middle-of-the-road deal on workers compensation reform, the Washington Federation of State Employees wrote this about the Senate’s bipartisan agreement Saturday:
“It’s the first sign that the kinds of attacks on workers we’re seeing in Wisconsin can happen here.”
In labor-friendly Washington, it’s a departure from reality almost on the order of Moammar Gadhafi or Charlie Sheen.
To the crucial point, the editorial says:
Creating a lump-sum option is important because it’s likely to reduce costs in a system that’s bleeding money. Its liability fund is $275 million in the red. That’s largely because 85 percent of the system’s costs — for workers receiving benefits for long periods and for lifetime pensions — come from just 8 percent of all claims.
Nothing radical here. Just good public policy.