I. A Short History of Wisconsin’s 100+ year old Workers Comp System
For over a century, our worker’s compensation system in Wisconsin has been based upon the ‘Grand Bargain’ – Employees gave up their right to sue their employers for work related injuries, in exchange for smaller, but certain benefits, and in return, employers agreed to a fast and certain procedure for the payment of benefits. The result was a modern law that abandoned the concept of negligence in favor of a speedier and uniform remedy free from the concern of who might have been at fault in causing the injury.
II. Representative John Spiros attempt at destroying our work comp system and stripping Wisconsin workers’ of their rights under the law
a. Attempt at circumventing the law.
In 2015, Rep. John Spiros (86th Assembly district), introduced 2015 AB 501 to mangle the worker’s compensation laws of Wisconsin. Spiro’s introduction of his bill was dramatically wrong on two levels. First, it purposefully circumvented the Workers Compensation Advisory Council system, and second, many of its proposals were destructive to our work comp system.
b. Throwing 100+ years’ of cooperation by labor and management out the window. Labor be damned.
The Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council was created in 1967 to advise the Legislature on policy matters concerning the development and administration of the workers compensation law. One of the important enduring values of the Council was in maintaining the overall stability of the workers compensation system without regard to partisan changes in the legislative or executive branches of government. One of the main functions of the Council is to recommend worker’s compensation law changes to the Legislature through the “agreed bill” process, a process that requires give and take from both sides and that creates a bill mutually agreed to by both the management/insurers side and the labor/workers side of the Council.
By tradition the Council only recommends statutory changes which pass unanimously in the Council. Based on this process, the Legislature traditionally accepts the Council’s recommendations without change and forwards the bill to the Governor where the bill is signed into law.
Instead of taking his proposals to the Advisory Council so they could be reviewed by the Council and any reasonable ideas incorporated into their “agreed bill”, Rep. Spiros submitted his entire bill to the legislature and then came to the Advisory Council to tell them about his reckless, power grabbing proposals.
lll. The three WORST proposals of Spiros
Had Spiros and the Republicans had their way, they would have decimated the longstanding 12 year statute of limitations down to only 2 years. That is a reduction of over 83% – from 12 years down to only 2 years!
This bill even allowed some employers to dictate that the injured worker see only the doctor the employer ordered them to see!
Spiros’ bill contained the absolute worst proposal ever conceived in the 100 + year history of Wisconsin’s no-fault worker’s compensation system; the proposal to now reduce an injured worker’s benefits if the injury was allegedly caused by any fault/negligence of the employee (with no provision to increase benefits if the injury was caused by an employer’s negligence).
lV. Spiros’ bill would have caused work comp litigation to skyrocket. Injured workers and their families would have suffered.
The fault/negligence provision would have undoubtedly increased work comp litigation rates many, many times above current levels as employers/insures would in most instances try to reduce benefits to the injured by asserting that at least some fault for an injury belonged to the worker. This proposal was designed to steal back the employer’s concession to the Grand Bargain, without giving anything in return; in essence, it would have single handedly destroy the Grand Bargain upon which the entire worker’s compensation system was based.
V. Spiros’ bill would have done only one thing – hurt Wisconsin working families.
From factory worker to teacher, from truck driver to officer worker, almost all of us are someone’s employee. Spiros’ proposals were designed to attack the employee’s most basic rights that were provided for over the past 100 years in our worker’s compensation system. His proposals would attack our weakest citizens at their most vulnerable time…workers who were injured on the job and who were unable to work and provide for themselves. Instead of employer and their work comp insurers helping them survive, Spiros would have the injured thrown onto the street or the welfare rolls.
Everyone who is an “employee” should be offended and outraged by Rep. Spiros’ action in this matter. And one can wonder how Rep. Spiros, a vice-president of “Claims” for Roehl Transport, could ethically even introduce such egregious and self-serving legislation designed to pilfer long established benefits from the injured worker in an attempt to enrich the insurers and a handful of employers.
I categorically reject Mr. Spiros power grabbing, heavy handed tactics designed to further injure the workers of this state who have already suffered injury. I strongly support the Advisory Council system and have faith that they can and should continue their fine and exemplary work that has made the Wisconsin’s workers compensation system the benchmark for every work comp system in the United States. I urge voters to use this election to tell Mr. Spiros they will not tolerate his mean-spirited, misguided, and self-serving actions.