Wednesday, February 27, 2008, 10:28 PM - Political developmentsIn closed a closed door session this afternoon, California Assembly Democrats decided to give the nod to Assemblywoman Karen Bass to succeed termed out Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.
Bass was not in the Assembly in 2004 and did not vote on SB 899, the Schwarzenegger workers' comp reform bill.
Generally Bass has supported labor interests in the Capitol. She received a 0% rating from the California Manufacturers and Technology Association. You can see that group's scorecard here:
Bass, an African-American whose term expires in 2010, represents a Los Angeles area district. She has worked as a physicians' assistant at the Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center and has taught at USC. Her expertise in healthcare issues will probably be a big plus as the legislature addresses healthcare reform and workers' compensation reform issues. Her bio is found here:
More analysis in the days to come. Check out my post from earlier today on Senate passage of the anti-bias bill.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008, 08:22 PM - Political developmentsEarlier today the California Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee voted in favor of SB 1115, the bill that would ban age, race and gender discrimination in awarding disability compensation to California workers.
The bill will eventually have to make its way through the California Assembly on its way to the governor's desk.
Among those testifying was Milton Jones of El Cajon. An African-American, Jones had his disability award slashed in half by a doctor who reasoned that since African-Americans have a higher incidence of hypertension, that must have caused one-half of his disability.
If you're a Costco member you've undoubtedly tried their delectable rotisserie chickens. Yum.
Jones served as a relief clerk at Costco, cleaning ovens used to cook the chickens. Using chemical oven cleaners, he developed asthma, hypertension, and bronchitis.
Should he receive half an award on the basis of a race-based theory that his condition was partially "caused" by genetic predisposition as an African-American?
Should a Swedish-American who becomes depressed over events at work in the wintertime receive less because Nordic peoples seem to be susceptible to seasonal affective disorders?
Workers' compensation should be about individuals, not about stereotyping.
Few will admit it publicly, but a number of insurance defense attorneys have told me privately that they are uncomfortable with the race, gender and age based apportionment stereotyping that is coming into vogue under SB 899.
Thanks should go to State Senator Carole Migden for her hard work on this bill. Workerscompzone will keep following its progress.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 11:07 PM - Political developmentsThe California State Senate Labor and Insurance subcommittee holds hearings Wednesday on the bill to prohibit discrimination in workers' compensation.
Here's the bill, SB 1115 (sponsored by State Senator Carole Migden):
http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/s ... oduced.pdf
The concept behind the bill is strikingly simple: there should be no discrimination in workers compensation based on gender, race, age, and other similar categories.
It will be interesting to see who lines up against the bill. Can opponents at least agree with the goal of a non-discriminatory comp system? Do the opponents believe that cost savings generated by SB 899 should trump
concerns that worker benefits are being denied based on race, gender and age-based considerations?
Here's a link to the article by Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub which endorses the need for fixing the comp system:
http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_8 ... ck_check=1
Weintraub denounces the use of gender, age and race to reduce worker benefits.
Also worthy of attention is the piece by an injured worker, Sam Gold, in the California Progress Report, "A California Injured Worker Asks: What's Wrong with Banning Discrimination in Workers' Compensation?":
http://www.californiaprogressreport.com ... _in_1.html
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Sunday, February 24, 2008, 10:28 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemThe Oscars.
Looks like "No Country For Old Men" has smoked the intense period piece "Atonement" and the social justice thriller "Michael Clayton".
Oscars is a sacred night for many of us. Perhaps you grew up watching Doris Day flirt with Rock Hudson. Or trying to figure out what Michelangelo Antonioni was saying in all those art house films. Or watching Indiana Jones escape from the jaws of doom. Or you're really from Gen Next...you cut your teeth listening to the South Park brats curse the bastards who killed Kenny again.
Me? Growing up in the Camel City, North Carolina (better known as Winston-Salem), labor themed films weren't exactly the favorite for Saturday nights at the drive-in.
But unless you're a cultural hermit, along the way you've probably seen a labor themed flick or two. Some of them are worth revisiting.
Lots of them were themed around labor-management strife. "On the Waterfront" . "Hoffa" . "Last Exit to Brooklyn".
We love coal miner films. "Matewan". "Harlan County". More arcane is "Salt of the Earth", about a New Mexico mining strike done by Herbert Biberman, one of the blacklisted Hollywood 10 in the McCarthy period of the early 1950's.
Tales about struggling workers. "Norma Rae". "9 to 5".
Workers struggling to make sense of the corporate world. "Roger & Me".
Workers who aren't always heroic. "Clerks" (1994):
Bored and restless office workers. Mike Judge's 1999 masterpiece, "Office Space". Don't know it? Here it is:
"Il Posto", a flick about Italian youth trying to adjust to work in the corporate world:
Documentaries. "Rosie the Riveter".
Here's a good data base-"Blue Collar Filmography" by Julia Lesage- if you're interested in checking out more labor themed cinema:
http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlines ... ovies.html
California's disabled workers sometimes star in movies. Movies taken by undercover investigators, most of which don't really show all that much.
Perhaps someday there'll be a worthy script to get disabled workers'
stories on the silver screen.
What's your favorite film featuring labor or disabled persons' issues?
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Thursday, February 21, 2008, 10:36 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemA cold winter night.
Sometimes comp seems like a lazy backwater.
The legislature hasn't geared up. Action on comp anti-discrimination will move, but at a slow pace.
The WCAB is in transition, still sporting one vacancy.
Important DWC action on PD schedule reform and QME regs seems to drag on and on.
After quickly resolving one burning comp issue by its Brodie decision, the California Supreme Court is moving at a snail's pace in scheduling
hearings on other comp-related cases.
In the larger world, life goes on. Politics. Hillary and Barack have just finished a strange Texas debate where they pretty much agreed on everything except mandates on healthcare reform. John McCain is defending himself against a New York Times piece-heavy on unnamed sources-insinuating that he had an affair with a lobbyist doing business with his committee. Perhaps we're looking at another 4 years of Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers payback. The world. Our Belgrade embassy attacked by Serbian thugs in the last gasp of pan-Serbian vitriolic nationalism. The economy. Concerns that we're entering a period of stagflation-inflation and recession.
Maybe it's a good night to wander in the wonkisphere.
Tonight's wonkisphere feature: the California Workers' Compensation Institute January 2008 analysis "Temporary Disability Outcomes Accident Years 2002-2005 Claims Experience". Written by Alex Swedlow and John Ireland, the research summary (and charts) are available by clicking here:
The bottom line? No big surprises here. SB 899 reforms have reduced the duration of TD claims and the average amount of TD paid per claim.
Very few claims are exempt from the 2 year TD limit. A small number of diagnoses provide the majority of TD claims. TD claims are being reported more quickly.
But there are many issues NOT addressed by this study. The quality of care in MPN networks. The lack of an income replacement system for workers with serious injuries who are unlucky enough to be disabled for more than 104 weeks. Abuses of a utilization review scheme that may in some cases prolong TD by failing to authorize testing and treatment on a prompt basis. The distribution of TD savings to employers rather than increased insurer profits. The inequity in exempting some specific types of injuries from the 2 year TD cap but not exempting others from the 2 year cap.
Do your own wandering through the wonkisphere.
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