Organized labor opposes SB 5127, which is all the Seattle Times editorial board needs to know:
One way to reduce costs is to offer injured workers fixed settlements instead of pensions. Forty-four other states,* including Oregon, do this, but it was blocked for decades here by organized labor.
The unions argue that workers will get less money out of a settlement, which is usually true. But some workers can use upfront money to set up a new way to make a living. The choice should be the worker’s.
To be clear: SB 5127 saves employers money by paying disabled workers less. Period. The editors are fine with this. I guess they think that under our current system, disabled workers in Washington have it too good. Whatever.
And yes, given the choice, a lot of injured workers would take the lump sum settlement over a lifetime of monthly payments. So why shouldn't we give workers that choice? Because it defeats the purpose of workers' compensation! Workers' comp is intended to be a safety net, not a lost-limb lottery. It's not a market transaction or a payment for services rendered. It's not blood money. And it's not even really about fairness. It's about making sure that injured workers are able to care for themselves for the rest of their lives despite their disabilities.
You can argue all you want that if a worker takes a fixed settlement and blows through the cash, well, that's his own damn problem for making the wrong choice. But regardless, it's taxpayers who will ultimately pick up the tab for his care. And when that happens everybody loses—except, you know, the corporate patrons pushing this profoundly anti-worker bill.
* (Also, every time I see the editors spew the "other states are doing it" argument, I just want to shout back: INCOME TAX!!!)