Attorneys, unions attempt to raise benefits

The Associated Press
Wednesday August 22, 2001

SACRAMENTO — Labor leaders and an attorneys’ group Tuesday launched another attempt to raise benefits for workers who suffer on-the-job injuries. 

The California Applicants’ Attorneys Association and the California Labor Federation unveiled legislation that would phase in benefit increases for permanently and temporarily disabled workers over a five-year period. 

Maximum weekly benefits for permanently disabled workers would climb from $140 to $230. 

The bill also would increase maximum benefits for temporarily injured workers from $490 to $651 a week and provide annual cost-of-living adjustments after that. 

Supporters said the bill, which includes some cost-saving provisions, would cost employers $1.8 billion to $2.4 billion a year when fully implemented. 

But they said employers have saved more than $4 billion a year from workers compensation reforms enacted in 1992. 

“The current workers’ compensation system has become a form of corporate welfare,” said William Herreras, president of the Applicants’ Attorneys Association, whose members represent injured workers. “It shields businesses from the true cost of on-the-job injuries.” 

Gov. Gray Davis vetoed benefit increases the last two years, saying they would have been too costly for employers. 

Davis spokesman Roger Salazar said the governor’s office was still reviewing the latest proposal, which was to be amended into a bill by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco. 

A coalition of business groups, the Workers’ Compensation Action Network, accused the bill’s supporters of making no effort to work out a deal. 

“We agree that benefits for injured workers should be increased in California, and public and private employer groups propose responsible measures to curb abuses and streamline the workers’ compensation system – measures that would help pay for higher benefits for injured workers without further weakening California’s economy,” the coalition said. 


The measure is scheduled to be heard next Monday by the Senate Insurance Committee. 


On the Net: 

Read the bill, SB71, at www.assembly.com