Labor Unions and Worker's Compensation

ISTOCK IMAGE ID 36053710Worker’s compensation and labor unions in the United States have been tied together for nearly a century now. While worker’s compensation has been implemented in some way or another by many countries for centuries, the United States didn’t attempt any real worker’s compensation laws until 1898 in New York, and the United State’s first comprehensive worker’s compensation legislation didn’t pass until the 1911 Wisconsin worker’s comp law. However, the long, slow implementation of worker’s compensation legislation has been arguably successful. Employers get tort relief, employees get a quick, equitable, and predictably no-fault compensation scheme, and yet the process carries an intrinsic incentive toward rehabilitation of the injured worker.

Even though union membership decreased slightly in 2014, unions still hold a significant presence in the United States and boast many benefits for both members and nonmembers, such as higher state wages, a higher rate of work provided health care coverage, and full support for worker’s compensation claims. They also support better working conditions. However Labor Unions most affect worker’s compensation in two crucial ways: first, they pushed for the creation of workers compensation law, where employers are liable regardless of fault, and second, they helped implement a “waiting period” which is necessary to establish eligibility for benefits. This waiting period is essentially a placeholder-no one will take the injured person’s job, ensuring they get paid leave. State’s waiting periods typically last 3-7 days.

Though it doesn’t apply generally, the idea that Unions have a positive influence over worker’s compensation receipt’sisn’t necessarily wrong. Union workplaces tend to be better structured, with contract terms and the relations of exchange formalized explicitly and implicitly. Management in Union workplaces also tend to be more sensitive to worker’s compensation claims, and regard it as a right.

Lastly, employees of both private companies and state governments seeking worker’s compensation are responsibility of the worker’s compensation program in the state in which they live, not the U.S. Department of Labor. Only federal employees may seek compensation from the Department of Labor under 5 U.S.C. 8101 et seq.


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