Working Kansans Are Not Disposable

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve highlighted some of the more scurrilous positions of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and how we reach the position that the Kansas Chamber believes working Kansans are disposable.

In order to justify our conclusion, we’ve provided some highlight summaries:

We’ve highlighted the position of the Kansas Chamber to dilute already marginal benefits for working Kansans only to increase their bottom lines — bottom lines used to fund out-of-control CEO compensation packages worth millions.

The Chamber has advocated for reducing the benefits for Kansans injured on the job by the most innocuous of preexisting conditions, including age, even if those conditions were not caused by previous workplace injuries. Kansas law already reduces awards by previous workplace injuries, but the Kansas Chamber would have all benefit claims reduced by changing the definition of preexisting condition.

In the Chamber’s world, a preexisting condition could mean virtually any condition an employee may have, including conditions that have never been diagnosed, are not symptomatic (re-occurring), and have never limited an employee’s daily activities or job performance. Under the Chamber’s measure, age-related conditions would be used to reduce or eliminate work comp benefits for older workers. Thus, an employee, especially veterans and older Kansans, would be disposed of as cheaply and quickly as possible for an injury that occurred in a unsafe workplace.

We’ve highlighted the continued decline of benefits for Kansans injured on the job and the Kansas Chamber’s opposition to reforms that would add a cost of living  adjustment for benefits for working Kansans injured at the workplace.

Here’s the facts: lifetime benefits for those permanently disabled from a workplace injury have not been amended since 1987 and contain no cost of living adjustment. The 1987 lifetime maximum of $125,000 is, in 2010 dollars, worth around $62,000.  Working Kansans, with each passing year and each economic recession, see a lower lifetime benefit maximum when surrounding states don’t even cap the lifetime maximum.

This isn’t about the competitiveness of Kansas in the business environment; it’s about increasing corporate bottom lines and making working Kansans shoulder the costs and burdens of an unsafe workplace. What incentive is there to make a workplace safe if there is no consequence for workplace injuries?

We’ve highlighted how Chamber-backed legislators have consistently refused to deal with illegal immigration in Kansas. Instead of creating legislation that would increase compliance with verifying the immigration status of employees, these legislators have chosen to keep a weakened tax penalty in place — in lieu of heightened civil and criminal penalties –formisclassification of employees as independent contractors, the principal loophole in avoiding immigration verification. The practice of misclassification allows Kansas’ more unscrupulous employers to gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage over those employers who pay by the rules, and it cheats Kansas taxpayers and workers of withholdings that are required under Kansas law.

Illegal immigrants come to Kansas for jobs — plain and simple. If we want to stem the tide of illegal immigration in Kansas, cracking down on employers who hire them is the first, best step, though we imagine the Kansas Chamber will continue to advocate for a steady stream of cheap, illegal labor in Kansas.

We’ve highlighted how the Kansas Chamber and Chamber-backed legislators have denied working Kansans the choice of their own health care professionals.

On one hand, the Chamber and Chamber-backed legislators pounded the drum over choice of doctors and health care professionals in the federal health care reform, though, on the other hand, refused to even give a hearing on a bill that would have provided Kansans injured on the job with the choice of their own doctor. If these legislators were truly interested in your liberties, particularly the liberty to make your own health care decisions, they would have given working Kansans the right to choose their own doctor after a workplace injury. Instead, doctors and health care professionals who have an economic incentive to treat you as cheaply as possible — including failing to perform even basic diagnosis for fear of discovering a much more significant injury — are permitted to run a racket that encourages medical conclusions based on the financial welfare of the employer, not on the health of the employee. So much for “do no harm.”

At the end of the day, our conclusion, we believe rightly, is that the Kansas Chamber and Chamber-backed legislators and candidates see working Kansans — the true engine of the Kansas economy — as nothing more than any other renewable resource: extract value, throw away, repeat.

We encourage you to remember this as you vote over the next week. Many of you have already voted, but, if you haven’t, be sure vote for candidates that will preserve the protections the generations before us fought to achieve, such as weekends, a safe workplace, and the safety net for those who find themselves unemployed due to poor economy or, worse, a permanent disability from a workplace injury.

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Working Kansans Are Not Disposable

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