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Winning the Race to the Bottom

Just over 2 years ago we posted a blog on the Race to the Bottom being run by the States in an attempt to lure businesses to set up shop in their State. As an enticement, States are making it harder for injured workers to receive workers compensation benefits and looking the other way when safety concerns are raised-hence, the phrase “Race to the Bottom.”

Despite stories by NPR, ProPublica, reports from OSHA and blogs like ours pointing out that while Alabama has been winning the Race to the Bottom-Alabama is doing worse, not better (you must remember that we are told that the State is $770 million dollars in the red and that Alabama ranks last in the United States in recovering from the “Great Recession” ). So where are all these great paying jobs that should be flooding into Alabama?

The one field where proponents of the Race to the Bottom point to in Alabama’s new automotive industry. Companies like Honda, Mercedes and Hyundai operate in Alabama and have created jobs. While we are all glad about Detroit deciding to move South, there is a very human costs being borne by Alabama families. According to a recent Bloomberg Business Week article, Alabama automobile workers suffer 10% more traumatic injuries and deaths than their compatriots who work up North. This is not a coincidence.

In our desire to win the Race to the Bottom, our State is sacrificing the lives and body parts of our citizens, citizens who are doing hard and dangerous work for $10 an hour with decreasing benefits. But as we have already noted, why is Alabama doing so horrible in comparison with other States since our workers have less rights and benefits than those in other States? The problem must be that Alabama workers need to have their rights cut some more-at least that is what one would think if they were to look at the proposed changes to Alabama’s workers compensation statute currently being discussed in Montgomery.

Just days into the 2017 Legislative Session, Senator Arthur Orr has submitted a bill to amend Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Laws. No, Senator Orr is not suggesting injured workers receive what other injured workers in the Southeast receive for their injuries, or that it would be nice if injured workers could choose what doctor to see so as to prevent workers’ comp sending the injured workers to a doctor they have paid to say nothing is wrong (and this does happen). No, Senator Orr’s bill would limit the amount of workers compensation benefits those who suffer catastrophic injuries which leave the worker permanently disabled could receive. Additionally, Senator Orr’s proposed amendment would create an easier way for the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to get out of their legal obligation to provide lifetime medical benefits for injured workers.

If these changes become law, Alabama workers and their families will be put at greater risk, and the Alabama tax payer will be the person who picks up the tab. Alabama has already won the Race to the Bottom, and as a State, we are not better off. Alabama workers, and especially injured workers, are worse off. PLEASE, call your Legislator and tell them that injured workers in Alabama deserve better!!!

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