Sunday, June 24, 2012, 07:04 PM - Political developmentsWe may see some frowning faces behind the counter at the WCAB district offices.
California's budget crisis has resulted in Governor Brown entering negotiations with various state worker unions, of which SEIU Local 1000
is the largest.
Many of the clerical employees at the WCAB are members of Local 1000, which has around 93,000 members.
It's been unclear whether we would see another round of furloughs as occurred under the Schwarzenegger administration or whether there would be a 4 day workweek. Brown had proposed a 9.5 hour workday for 4 hours per week.
Instead, the deal apparently calls for a 5% salary reduction but allows for flexibility in time off.
Union members will be voting on the package this week.
Should the union membership vote to opposed and the deal fail, presumably furloughs or layoffs would be imposed.
Currently there has been no announced deal with the union which represents workers' comp judges.
Clerical staff and judges at the WCAB aren't immune to the economic challenges facing state government and many California workers.
But pay cuts do have heavy affects on many of those workers at the WCAB.
So if you see a frown now and then, that may be why.
Here is a link to the SEIU Local 1000 website which has more on the proposed deal:
http://seiu1000.org/2012/06/breaking-ne ... -state.php
Wednesday, June 20, 2012, 09:35 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemHumbert Hinkel stepped out on his porch.
He had nothing to hide. "I've got nothing to hide", he said to himself.
Unhappily, he turned down the Lady Gaga music after his surly teenager shouted obscenities about Gaga's music being ancient.
"I'll get in my all-solar vehicle and go to my workers' comp doctor to get my feel-well packet", he thought to himself. Humbert was in injured worker, caught up in the comp system.
Humbert grabbed his cane, held it, then put it back on the shelf. "I've nothing to hide, even though they may be watching", he muttered.
He knew they might be watching him.
They were always watching him. He knew that.
The day was beautiful. Flowers were in bloom.
Bees buzzed about, pollinating the neighbor's pear trees.Small birds swooped and dived.
"I have nothing to hide", he said to himself. He climbed in his all-solar
He rolled down the window. Something came over him. He remembered an old film, Network, starring Peter Finch. Finch's TV commentator character had snapped, encouraging viewers to open their windows and yell into the urban jungle "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore".
Humbert stood up in his all-solar vehicle, retracted the crystal canopy, and yelled, to the bees and wasps and birds " I hear you buzzing. I see you swooping and diving. You can't fool me. I know you are there, but I have nothing to hide".
The buzzing bees and wasps still buzzed. The birds still swooped and dived.
What was real and what was surveillance? The world had changed years ago.
Humbert knew that. He had nothing to hide, but the bees and birds were driving him crazy.
Humbert told me this story and asked that I show you this:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... lance.html
Monday, June 18, 2012, 10:23 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemBad behavior by attorneys and lien claimants continues to be a focus of the current California Workers Compensation Appeals Board.
In the past several years we've seen the WCAB cracking down where attorneys and lien claimants were alleged to have misled the WCAB. One high profile case has been against a well known Southern California lien rep:
Now the WCAB has tackled a situation where the attorney for the lien claimant had demonstrated a pattern of failing to appear or appearing late for court appearances, causing many continuances. The case is Ramona Anaya v. Port Hueneme Unified School District (ADJ3637516/OXN 0126293).
In six other cases the attorney had filed petitions for disqualification of the WCJ, all of which were rejected by the WCAB, which noted that "While we emphasize that we take allegations of bias and the appearance of bias by WCJs seriously, it is still the burden of the person alleging bias to come forward with facts to support those allegations. Without evidence, the allegations are just that, and no more."
In the Anaya case the attorney was sanctioned and costs were awarded to opposing attorneys.
The WCAB panel of Caplane, Lowe and Moresi noted that under Appeals Board Rule 10561 (b)(1) a violation can arise "when the party either fails to appear or appears late on one occasion without an excuse or demonstrates a pattern of failing to appear or appearing late at a conference or trial."
They conclude that "Thus, under Appeals Board Rule 10561, subdivision (b)(1), the issue of whether the party has a reasonable excuse is not relevant when the party demonstrates a pattern of late or missed appearances". In the case the judge found that six of eighteen continuances were due to the attorney and thus the judge's "focus on whether she had good reason for the continuances is not the issue. Nor is it relevant whether defendant caused any of the continuances because defendant's behavior is not at issue".
The WCAB noted that even leaving aside 3 missed or late appearances due to illness, there were 3 continuances caused by the attorney;s lack of preparation in addition to other continuances for vacation.
So the WCAB upheld the order of sanctions and costs.
It's another example of how the WCAB is clearly annoyed with the tactics and practices of some stakeholder representatives. Clearly the WCAB is out of patience with the loose manner of practice adopted by some advocates.
Friday, June 15, 2012, 10:04 PM - Political developmentsThe last several weeks I've had to follow the California workers' comp scene from afar.
That's because I was traveling in Asia. It's always interesting to engage another culture and see one's own through that other lens.
One can see wacky trends. For example, the nerdy girl look seems to be quite in vogue. Even girls who don't need glasses were wearing glass frames without......glass.
But what about more substantive stuff?
California's high speed rail venture is looking quite wobbly now. The Central Valley route under consideration and the economic assumptions of the project are questionable. But a ride on the Hong Kong airport train or Taiwan's high speed rail makes it crystal clear that high speed rail is a concept worth fighting for.
Like China, Taiwan has been in an infrastructure building boom. Freeways, subways and other transportation projects appeared to be in process al over Taipei and Hong Kong.
Here in the Bay Area, traffic often is snarled between San Francisco or Oakland and Silicon Valley. Taiwan's Silicon Valley is Hsinchu, about the same distance from Taipei as San Jose is from San Francisco. Yet, Taiwan's High Speed Rail zips passengers to Hsinchu in about 20 minutes, all in air-conditioned comfort with wi-fi.
There's plenty of shave ice with red beans awaiting as you disembark.
In Hong Kong an efficient train will whisk you off to Hong Kong Disneyland.
The huge Computex trade show was on in Taipei while I was there, and the HSR as it is called was filled with tech folks making their way to and from Hsinchu.
Hong Kong and Taipei are among earth's most densely populated cities, however.
So building Asian high speed rail clearly was a logistical feat, but one destined for success, with a huge potential ridership base.
One can't say the same thing about a California high speed rail plan that would begin by linking some smaller towns south of Fresno.
The urge to build more miles and at cheaper cost in the Central Valley may make sense to some planner or bureaucrat, but the risk is that even if the plan proceeds, it will be a train to nowhere with no riders.
And ultimately a system which never gets built.
I'll be sad if California's high speed rail never gets built. Should that be the case, it would appear to be a collective failure of imagination.
We can do a lot better than we are doing.
Sunday, June 10, 2012, 08:08 PM - Political developmentsIt's a strange time.
There's a lot of populism in the air. Folks on the left and right are suspicious of big money.
But unions have not been able to capitalize on these conditions.
Unions are seen by many as part of the problem, particularly public worker unions. Labor suffered a grievous loss in Wisconsin after staking a large amount of political capital on the recall of Scott Walker. Any alliance between the union movement and the occupy movement fizzled.
Here in California the role of unions is about to come to a boil. In November an initiative will be on the ballot which would prohibit direct union contributions to individual candidates and which would limit use of payroll deductions for political purposes.
The effect would be to limit labor union political power in California. While some independent expenditures could still be undertaken by unions, there would be significantly less money for them to distribute.
An article by Jon Ortiz in the Sacramento Bee notes that:
"Last year, public-sector and general-trade unions contributed $2.7 million to California political candidates and causes, according to campaign finance tracker FollowTheMoney.org. Business interests, from the telecommunications industry and hospitals to computer firms and beer companies, gave $4.3 million."
The initiative is sponsored in part by Charles T. Munger, Jr., a Stanford physicist whose father is a partner in Berkshire Hathaway with famed investor Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway owns insurers who write significant amounts of California workers' comp.
The fight over this initiative will be huge, given that a loss could cripple the political power of California unions and drastically change the California political landscape.
A recent article in the New York Times noted that in New York state there are tensions between public unions who oppose pension reform and building trades unions that are concerned with the impact of pension obligations on the New York budget which may affect construction trade worker employment prospects. But with the upcoming California campaign reform initiative those sorts of issues will not come to the fore, and labor will be united.
It's curious, though, that we may be in the runup to major California workers' comp reforms just a couple of months before the vote on the November initiative.
Any perception that California labor signs onto a package that despite some benefit increases has significant takeaways would be a divisive and bad development for labor as the campaign over the campaign finance initiative heats up. A political brawl in the Capitol over workers' comp or a tepid deal revealed in a "September surprise" carry similar risks. Given what occurred in 2004, there will be intense focus on whether any deal really helps workers or whether benefit increases are illusory for most workers.
The political power of the California labor movement could be on life support if this initiative passes. A workers' comp deal would come just as unions are trying to muster rank and file enthusiasm and help from progressives to fight the initiative.
For more information about the initiative, including links to its language and information in its funders, here is a link to ballotpedia:
http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/C ... nitiative_(2012)