1082 in the Hizzle

By Bryce McKay September 20, 2010


The folks at Save Our Jobs Washington---the insurance industry and Building Industry Association of Washington campaign for Initiative 1082---have released perhaps the best video of the campaign cycle this season. "Monopoly," is a political rap video that harangues the state's Labor and Industries (L&I) agency. L&I is responsible for regulating workplace safety, and "providing medical and limited wage-replacement coverage to workers who suffer job-related injuries."

I-1082 is the initiative that would offer an option for privatized workers' compensation. Currently, L&I insures workers or if big companies (like Boeing) qualify, they can go with a private insurer, provided the benefits they provide are not below what L&I provides.

The video is hilarious and has  a lot of good rhetoric about giving employers more choices and lower taxes.

But we aren't gullible. (Again, the campaign is funded by the insurance industry and the BIAW—who have a lot to gain financially from the I-1082.) While the ad is dope, the specific claims they make aren't so good. I called the Vote No on I-1082 campaign campaign spokesman Alex Fryer to check some of the claims in the video, and I  followed up with Elaine Fischer in the Public Affairs office at L&I.

RAP: "Insolvent by 2012---that's what the auditor said!"

RESPONSE: Misleading. "First of all, State Auditor Brian Sonntag is one of our endorsers," Fryer said. "The system is on fine financial footing."

Fischer pointed me to an editorial written by L&I Director Judy Schurke. Schurke writes that claims of impending solvency are “alarmist and misleading.” The facts? One particular fund---the contingency reserve---may become insolvent. But that won't happen for many years yet, and the entire workers' compensation system is financially sound.

RAP: "My rates went up, employees had to be cut! Without 1082, my doors might be shut!"

RESPONSE: Misleading again. According to Fryer, the system fluctuates with the economy. In the booming 90s, L&I contributors actually got a refund. And Fryer was quick to point out that in the state of Oregon, they do have a private workers' comp system, and Oregon business owners pay more than Washingtonians do.

As far as rates go, Fischer backed him up. As recently as 2007, L&I proclaimed a “rate holiday” meaning that contributors weren't obligated to pay in for a period of six months. Rates decreased in both 2006 and 2007, and from 1992 to 2002 rates cratered 16.5 percent.

RAP: "We're the longest in the nation to get you back to work!"

RESPONSE: Not even a little. According to Fryer, this is a statistic that the 1082 camp has been schilling for a long time. “They've repeated that, but repeating that statistic doesn't make it true.” According to Fischer, 72 percent of injured workers miss fewer than three days of work---meaning that they get treated and return to work, requesting no time-loss payment from L&I.
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