Tag Archives: elections

Experience Of New Virginia Legislator Points To Difficulty Of Multi-State Claims For Injured Workers

Democrat Lee Carter, a democratic socialist, won an election to represent Virginia’s 50th District in the state’s House of Delegates.

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Lee Carter took a bad experience with a work injury and turned it into motivation to win election to the Virginia legislature last November. But the nature of Carter’s bad experience with his work injury shows why electing true worker advocates to state legislatures may not be enough to protect injured workers.

Carter was a Virginia resident who was injured in Illinois working for a Georgia company. Carter attempted to bring his claim in Virginia but he was unable to do so because of lack of jurisdiction. Tennessee lawyer Denty Cheatham pointed out on the WILG listserv that Carter’s difficulty in bringing a claim was why national standards are needed for workers compensation.

So-called federalization is controversial in the world of workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a creature of state law by what amounts to a fluke of legal history. When workers compensation laws were passed in the 1910s, the Supreme Court held that regulation of workplace safety was outside of the federal government’s ability to regulate interstate commerce but was within the so-called police power of the states.

Two decades later during the New Deal era, the Supreme Court expanded the definition of interstate commerce in the 1930s which allowed Congress to enact laws impacting the workplace such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

OSHA was implemented in the 1970s as concerns about the adequacy of state-based workers compensation systems arose from organized labor and the civil rights movement. Part of the OSHA Act was a National Commission that called for minimum standards for workers compensation claims. Part of having standardized state laws would mean that state laws would be more uniform and multi-state claims would be easier to navigate for injured workers.

Our firm is part of WILG which is a national organization of workers’ compensation lawyers. Multi-state or multi-jurisdictional claims are probably one of the most discussed topic on the WILG listserv. Mainly lawyers discuss which state’s have the best laws for a particular case. In some circumstances workers can also bring claims in and collect benefits in multiple states. The current system works for knowledgeable lawyers, but it can fail injured workers who may not even be able to bring claim because of questions over jurisdiction.

Multi-state claims can also subvert democratic rule. A worker has some input over workers compensation laws in the state where he or she lives and votes through their respective state legislatures. A worker who is forced to bring a claim in another state does not have that influence unless they happen to be among the 6 percent of private sector employees represented by a union. But even then, it may be burdensome to bring a claim in another state.

But workers have a say over national laws through their Congressional representatives. Minimum standards and some uniformity in state workers’ compensation laws would give injured workers more say in the types of benefits they would receive if they were hurt out of their home state or hurt for an out of state employer. Minimum standards legislation would also draw more national attention to the short coming of various state workers’ compensation laws. Renewed pushes for federal standards for workers’ compensation happened in the early Obama administration and towards the end of the Obama administration. National standards for workers’ compensation legislation will probably have to wait for a change in the partisan makeup of the two elected branches of the federal government.

Book Review: Strangers in Their Own Land

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

The author, Arlie Russell Hochschild, a sociologist from Berkeley, California, has attempted to understand the Tea Party movement by going to rural Louisiana. Over a five-year period she got to know the people of this region; attended political events, including Donald Trump rallies; and became friends with many hard-working men and women, all of whom live in an area that has been severely environmentally damaged by the oil industry. The result of her research is her 242 page book, Strangers in Their Own Land.

Hochschild attempted to solve a paradox: why do citizens who live in this area allow drastic cuts in public funding to the extent that Louisiana has fallen to the bottom of  the states in overall health, education, and welfare, particularly during the 8 years when Governor Bobby Jindal was governor, yet  have no objection to giving businesses over $1.6 billion in tax breaks? Hochschild developed a “deep story” that is an image of the way Tea Party people feel about their place in the political and cultural world today. Why are they so angry, and so upset with the federal government? They see themselves in a long line waiting to reach the American dream at the top of a hill.  They are patient, hard-working, devoted to family, church and community, but over the years they see the line becoming slower, and they are convinced the federal government is letting people “cut in line.” They see African Americans, females, the disabled, Mexicans, gays and now even Syrian refugees, being allowed to cut in front of them and get ahead of them. Mild discontent has grown to anger. 

Tea Party activists “feel” as though they are being left behind and isolated, yet believe they have better morals and a better work ethic than those getting in front of them. They have lost empathy for the poor and disabled, and reject the notion that big government has the correct solution for economic and environmental problems, notwithstanding that because of lack of regulations Louisiana has become an environmental disaster (you cannot drink river water; local fish cannot be eaten; cypress trees are dying; and toxic waste is being stored below the surface, with adverse effects). These people are genuine and care about their communities, but the feelings they have about being abandoned by the federal government and disrespected by the media and northern elites, has made them callous to those who do not work and who do not contribute to society. As one person stated, “ I think if people refuse to work, we should let them starve.” 

We need to appreciate the bitterness and sense of loss of  Tea Party activists, and we need to try to bridge the gap in understanding. It is clear from this book, however, that unless both sides make a good faith effort to communicate, there will be no early reconciliation.  This book should be mandatory reading for all those who are clueless as to the makeup of a Tea Party voter.

An Outrageous Attempt To Suppress Voting In Milwaukee

A billboard in Milwaukee could lead to a lower turnout on election day.

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer from The Domer Law Firm.

I’ve noticed a number of billboards in my city that have gone up in recent weeks (please see the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story here: http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/community-groups-object-to-voter-fraud-billboards-5077qis-174260461.html). These billboards state that “voter fraud is a felony,” and they appear to be “strategically” placed in certain neighborhoods.  My level of outrage and frustration increases with every single viewing of these misleading and outrageous billboards.

First, I can’t believe that the person/family/corporation responsible for the billboards can’t own up to identifying who they are.  The ads are simply sponsored by a “private family foundation”—a great way to hide the true identity.  Also, the message is truly insidious, as the allegations of voter “fraud” are just a red herring.  The reality and intent of these billboards is for one purpose: voter suppression.  The goal is to create some unfounded fear to keep certain individuals from voting in the upcoming election.

One of the main tenets of a vibrant and representative democracy is the right to vote.  I am truly disheartened by the fact that certain people or political parties feel that their only route to winning an election is to suppress the vote.