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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 10
Sen. Ed Murray does the right thing for injured workers
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Sen. Ed Murray does the right thing for injured workers

Courtesy of Pride At Work AFL-CIO

Sen. Ed Murray (D-43) joined 14 other Democratic state senators in voting to protect workers' compensation insurance from the latest attempt to cut benefits to injured workers.

Unfortunately, 12 Democratic senators joined all 34 Republicans to pass SB 5566, and allow employers to negotiate so-called 'compromise and release' agreements that would have injured workers accept one-time lump-sum settlements of injury claims.

The measure now goes to the state House of Representatives.

Until now, state law has required that injured workers receive 'sure and certain relief' of lost wages and medical expenses.

In 1911, Washington became the first state in the country to establish a no-fault system that allowed injured workers to collect compensation for their injuries and lost wages without having to wage an unequal legal fight against wealthy employers and their lawyers.

Last November, voters overwhelmingly rejected I-1082, to privatize the workers' compensation system.

I-1082 was supported by the Association of Washington Business, the Building Industry Association of Washington, and the National Federation of Independent Business. Nevertheless, it lost by wide margins in every county in the state.

These same powerful business lobbyists have now convinced a majority of the state senate to pass a bill that would allow employers to limit the amounts paid to their employees who are injured on the job.

Sen. Murray should be congratulated for doing the right thing and voting against this measure.

He was joined by Sens. Maralyn Chase, Steve Conway, Tracey Eide, Karen Fraser, Nick Harper, Karen Keiser, Adam Kline, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Rosemary McAuliffe, Sharon Nelson, Margarita Prentice, Kevin Ranker, Debbie Regala, and Scott White.

On the other side were all the senate Republicans and 12 Democrats: Sens. Lisa Brown, James Hargrove, Brian Hatfield, Mary Margaret Haugen, Steve Hobbs, Jim Kastama, Derek Kilmer, Craig Pridemore, Phil Rockefeller, Tim Sheldon, Paull Shin, and Rodney Tom.

'For 100 years, workers and employers have worked within this 'no fault' system where there was a premium placed on workers and their families receiving 'sure and certain relief' of their wage and medical loss and where there was a high degree of predictability and consistency,' said Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) President Jeff Johnson.

'Those who either knowingly or naively voted to pass SB 5566 introducing 'compromise and release' into the system have chosen to replace 'sure and certain relief' with variability and chance. SB 5566 posits that everything in a claim is now open to compromise and as a consequence everything now becomes a dispute.'

The WSLC is the state branch of the AFL-CIO.

Pride At Work is an LGBT labor organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO, but including members of Change To Win and independent unions, and non-union allies.

Pride At Work's Martin Luther King County chapter can be reached at OutFront.PrideAtWork@gmail.com or 206-261-8110.

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