They’ve pretty much villified and demonized the unionized teachers in Michigan and taken every available step to stripping them of any ability to bargain for and/or receive decent labor agreements. So who is next on the Michigan Republican’s hitlist? Police and firefighters, of course.
Police and fire unions are opposing a bill they said would limit compensation and suitable health coverage if hurt in the line of duty.
House Bill 5002 would amend the state’s Worker’s Disability Compensation Act, a policy some legislators say is outdated and needs to be revamped to be more reasonable for businesses.
The act applies to all workers who have access to worker’s compensation, but the bill includes new rules for fire and police officers.
Among a host of new rules for first responders, the bill would adjust worker’s compensation based on the type and severity of an injury, and the ability of a policeman or firefighter to work with injuries.
The bill also would prohibit injured first responders from seeing their personal physician for 90 days. The law currently allows them to see their own doctors 10 days after first being screened by an appointed physician.
“We view it as just a continued assault against police officers by the Michigan Legislature. We’re not sure why they keep doing this,” said Kenneth Grabowski, legislative director for the Police Officers Association of Michigan.
“We feel like we’re under siege. We need to bring in Steven Seagal,” he added, referring to the lead actor in the film “Under Siege.”
The delayed ability to see an officer’s own doctor means first responders could receive a faulty diagnosis through an appointed physician, and not receive a correct diagnosis for three months, said Mark Docherty, president of the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union and a lieutenant with the Sterling Heights Fire Department.
“Now they want to make it so you can’t see your own physician. Who knows you better than your own physician?” Docherty asked.
- Allow an employer or insurance company to reduce workers comp benefits by a hypothetical wage earning capacity. This means that your wage loss benefits will be cut regardless of whether you can actually find a job. Instead of receiving 80% of your average weekly wage if you cannot work, you will get much less. Your employer will also have no incentive to bring you back to work with restrictions.
- Allow an employer to deny workers comp benefits if you are fired. This means that your workers comp benefits can be stopped forever just because you broke a company rule or policy.
- Creates a higher evidentiary standard when you have degenerative arthritis or a psychiatric disability. Most people have some arthritis as they get older and this does not mean that their work injury is any less legitimate. The fact that you were working without a problem until your injury should mean something.
- Gives your employer the right to choose your medical providers for 90 days. It does not matter whether you are receiving appropriate medical care or not. You are stuck with their doctors.
- Sticks you or your medical providers with attorney fees when medical bills are ordered paid under workers comp. Better you than your employer or the insurance company who wrongly denied the medical bills in the first place.
Here’s the press release from the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union (MPFFU) and the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police (MIFOP) [source – Michigan Fraternal Order of Police]:
Firefighters, Law Enforcement Oppose Bill Designed To Tear Down Michigan Workers Compensation Laws
Say HB 5002 Only Jeopardizes Health of Public Servants Who Put Their Lives On The Line
LANSING, Mich., Sept. 27, 2011 – Police officers and fire fighters across the state say they believe some legislators attempting to undermine Michigan’s worker compensation laws are more than willing to place public servants in harm’s way by cutting off benefits for thousands of working men and women.
Leaders from both the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union (MPFFU) and the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police (MIFOP) say lawmakers want to make it more difficult for their members to file claims when they are injured saving the lives of Michigan citizens.
“Workers compensation laws like those currently on the books in Michigan help protect firefighters and police officers across our state and ensure that – in the event of an injury – they are cared for with dignity,” said Mark Docherty, MPFFU President. “Firefighters and police officers have jobs where they assume considerable risk in the performance of their duties. These men and women sacrifice their personal safety for our benefit on a daily basis.”
In addition to their physical safety, firefighters and police officers routinely witness traumatic life events, Docherty said. They are subjected to mental trauma that civilians only rarely see on television. Unfortunately, for police officers and firefighters, tragedy, grief, and heartbreak are the daily norm. This proposed legislation would virtually elimnate a disability claim for such events.
“Workers compensation helps to ensure that these heroes receive the medical and mental health services that they require to remain on the job 24-7, protecting Michigan citizens and saving countless lives,” said John Buczek, Executive Director of MIFOP. “The actions currently being undertaken by members of the state legislature are designed to balance further savings at the local level on the backs of working men and women, like firefighters and police officers. These legislators are not taking into consideration the daily risks both mental and physical that police officers and firefighters deal with every day.
The threat to workers compensation laws currently on the books could put at-risk the safeguards that protect fire fighters and police officers and currently give them the confidence to take risks necessary to perform their jobs.
Teachers, firefighters and police officers. These are the public servants who do the most to benefit society. They are the people who help to deliver on our public contract to protect and educate our citizens and they often put their lives on the line in order to do so. As part of that public contract, we agree to take care of them. Until now, it appears.
Republicans in Michigan want you to think teachers, cops and fire fighters are greedy parasites, vampires feeding off the jugular vein of the citizens of our state. They MUST do this in order to deny them the wages and benefits they deserve (as well as the right to collectively bargain for these rights.)