The working poor need daycare, the rich have a nanny. Older citizens need Medicaid, the rich have long-term healthcare insurance. Those with limited income go to state colleges. The rich go to Ivy League universities. The carless ride Amtrak. The rich fly first class. Middle class children go to public schools. Rich children have tutors and pay tuition at academies. Working people use local healthcare. Rich people have on call doctors and go to private hospitals. Wage earners seek higher wages and a safe place to work. Rich people destroy unions for more profit. The man in the street believes government should serve the public. The rich think government should help them get richer. The unemployed want a job with a living wage. Rich people like unemployment because it holds down wages. Those with less help one another. The rich only care for themselves. Poor people run for office. Rich people buy office. These differences are why those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder being forced to pay the state debt by losing critical services, while the rich get tax breaks.
Which of the proposed tax cuts hurt the rich? None. Illinois voters said millionaires should pay higher income taxes. Why has the Governor not heeded the voice of the people by taxing the rich? Oh, the Governor is rich. Richard Gillespie, Anna
Rauner isn’t thinking through cuts
To the Editor:
Shoot first, then ask questions. This seems to be the approach that’s being taken by our new governor, when it comes to fixing our broken budget.
First of all, you don’t cut higher education by 30 percent, making it next to impossible for the poor and middle class to afford a college degree. Ten percent, maybe?
These cuts will also affect clean coal technology research.
It could be another generation before solar, wind, and hydrogen power are our main sources of energy. Fracking is very controversial, and we’ve seen the devastation of nuclear accidents. So the logical choice is clean, efficient natural gas and coal burning power plants. Which means more jobs to the region, and more tax revenue to the state.
Some to the extreme-right blame the Environmental Protection Agency for all of our problems. I would ask these people if they want to go back to the good ole days of open land dumps, DDT on vegetables, LA smog alerts, or flowing cesspools, such as New York’s Hudson River?
The President who signed off on the creation of the EPA, was not considered to be a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. If you’re over 50 you probably remember him well, Richard Nixon. Daryl Ice, Benton
Voice of the Reader: Insurance oversight lowers workers’ comp costs
March 17, 2015 1:00 am • John D. Cooney President, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
A growing chorus of Republican governors are singing the blues regarding workers’ compensation costs, wailing that benefits must be cut further or businesses will leave their states. Yet two separate studies published in recent weeks by NPR/Pro Publica and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) show that nationwide, insurance companies have kept any cost savings from recent “reforms” for themselves, with profits climbing to 18 percent two years ago — and middle and lower-income families and taxpayers are paying the price.
Our own Gov. Bruce Rauner sings the same tune. The chorus and verse include actively working to dismantle the “grand bargain” of workers’ compensation, which has existed for 100 years. In the modern era, one with record corporate profits and a booming stock market, Illinois does not need to abandon this ethical agreement wherein injured workers are guaranteed treatment and money to live on, while employers are protected from costly litigation.
In 2011, at the urging of business and insurance companies, one of these workers’ compensation “reform” packages was signed into law in Illinois. To lower costs for businesses, workers gave up longstanding rights; insurance companies, in return, were to be transparent with pricing and pass savings along to employers through premium reductions of nearly 20 percent, as recommended by The National Council on Compensation Insurance (an insurance industry rate-recommendation agency). As it turns out, only the workers kept their end of the bargain.
A recent study by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services shows Illinois did experience a 24 percent reduction in workers’ compensation rates between 2012 and 2014, which is the steepest drop in the nation. However, as many employers will tell you, they have yet to see an equivalent decrease in their premiums. Instead, insurance companies have pocketed the difference — estimated somewhere between $625 million and $1 billion — while disingenuously continuing to blame the negotiated financial safeguards that help workers and their families when they are badly hurt or killed on the job.
How can insurers get away with this? Illinois doesn’t regulate premiums, and it’s a lucrative business. More than 300 insurance companies compete for and write workers’ compensation insurance here, more than just about any other state in the country. The National Academy of Social Insurance reports workers’ compensation is the second most profitable line of insurance after auto insurance.
The real result of Illinois’ 2011 workers’ compensation reform is the seeding of this fertile ground for the insurance industry, which is reaping record profits. OSHA found that, nationwide, employers pay only 21 percent of the costs of workplace injuries through workers’ compensation. Cut-rate benefits force families to bear 50 percent of the costs, and taxpayers pay 16 percent when workers must resort to public assistance to survive.
Cries from our new governor and his big business supporters for more so-called “reforms” will take away even more rights from injured workers, help to boost the insurance industry’s bottom line, and shift even more risk and burden onto taxpayers.
Illinois lawmakers should consider insurance premium transparency and oversight reform — not further sacrifices by injured workers. No matter how many benefits are cut, medical reimbursements are lowered, and claims are denied, the state’s businesses won’t see corresponding savings without our leaders addressing the promises previously broken by the insurance industry.
If we really want to improve Illinois’ business climate and achieve greater economic prosperity for all, we must reject race-to-the-bottom policies and make sure we are creating a welcoming state for more than just insurance companies.
JOHN D. COONEY is the President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, a statewide organization whose members represent injured consumers and workers. Source Article.
Guest View: Many myths within Rauner’s ransom
September 01, 2015 1:30 am • Clint Taylor Southern and Central Illinois Laborers’ District Council
Gov. Bruce Rauner renewed his call for pay cuts for tens of thousands of hard working Illinoisans last week as a condition to ending the state’s budget battle. “Rauner’s Ransom” demands have been consistently rejected with bipartisan opposition.
That’s because Rauner’s outrageous assertion that cutting wages “is aimed at growing our economy” is not only counter-intuitive, it is just plain wrong. Taking money out of the hands of working- and middle-class consumers takes money out of the cash registers of local grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses, both big and small.
When working families have income, they spend it. In the case of construction workers, it is estimated that they generate $188 of economic activity for every $100 they earn. Their investment in the local economy not only feeds, clothes and houses themselves and their family; it generates revenue for Illinois businesses and state and local government.
How would Rauner cut workers’ pay? By eliminating the law that protects the wages of construction workers on local government construction projects. It’s called the Prevailing Wage Act and it not only benefits workers (both union and non-union) it prevents taxpayers from being ripped off by fly-by-night and low-wage out-of-state contractors.
A study by the University of Illinois found that states that do not have prevailing wage laws have a greater likelihood of out-of-state contractors winning bids. That means fewer jobs for Illinois companies and workers. Mr. Rauner knows this, so he suggested in a letter to legislators that “local units of government could adopt local contractor preferences… to encourage Illinois-based workforces” as part of his pay cut plan. But that’s easier said than done. The state has had similar laws thrown out by the courts and local governments would have to spend tax dollars to defend preference laws. Why take that chance when the Prevailing Wage Act prevents minimum wage-paying contractors from undercutting our local businesses?
Yet, the governor says eliminating the Prevailing Wage Act should be among the “tools to control costs” for local governments. But repealing prevailing wage won’t save money: the math behind Governor Rauner’s contention that the Prevailing Wage Act “drives up taxpayer costs by up to 20 percent” simply doesn’t add up.
Total labor costs on a construction job typically amount to only 20 to 30 percent of the entire project. So, you can’t shave 20 percent off of the project price by cutting the line item that represents only 20 percent of project. It’s impossible: the workers would have to work for free.
In fact, Rauner’s pay cut scheme won’t save taxpayers any money at all. Studies by numerous university economists all over the country have concluded that any “savings” from cutting workers’ wages is more than offset by losses in worker productivity. That’s because highly skilled construction workers leave low wage states to find work that pays better and workers who do go into construction don’t make it a career, so employers put less money into training.
This lower productivity means more cost overruns and longer completion times. A review of federal highway projects found that workers in high wage states, such as Illinois, built a mile of road in 32 percent less time than in low wage states, more than offsetting the cost of fair wages. In fact, that study found that the cost was actually 4 percent less per mile in states like Illinois. Similarly, a University of Utah economist examined the construction costs of 400 schools in three states. That study found no significant difference in the cost between those built with or without prevailing wages.
Democrats and Republicans in the legislature have rightly rejected Governor Rauner’s pay cut plan 10 times now because it’s bad for workers, bad for Illinois businesses and it won’t save taxpayers a dime. Mr. Rauner should stop holding the state budget and Illinois workers hostage and drop his demand to gut the Prevailing Wage Act.
Taylor is business manager at the Southern and Central Illinois Laborers’ District Council. Source Article.
Guest View: Worker’s comp costs are already dropping
July 12, 2015 1:30 am • Perry Browder, Guest View
Gov. Bruce Rauner and his allies are holding the state budget hostage, putting the most vulnerable citizens of our state at risk, in an effort to re-engineer the state’s workers’ compensation system. They claim changes are necessary to boost the business climate in Illinois, but their so-called “reforms” will undercut the rights of injured workers, ensure the insurance industry makes even more money, and shift greater risk and cost burden onto taxpayers.
With all the doom and gloom in the news regarding our state’s dire financial straits and the possibility of a government shutdown that is likely to increase in severity for each day the state lacks a new budget, recent positive reports – which show workers’ comp costs are declining and businesses are growing – have gone largely unnoticed.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission’s annual report for fiscal year 2014, released in late June, said Illinois employers experienced the largest decrease in workers’ comp premiums among all states, dropping substantially from fourth highest to seventh highest, between 2012 and 2014. And the commission anticipates further savings once the full effects of the state’s 2011 workers’ comp overhaul are felt.
As for insurers, the IWCC said they enjoyed a 19 percent decrease in loss costs (benefit payments) between 2011 and 2015.
The insurance companies feign financial hardship. But the fact is, according to the IWCC, Illinois has more insurers selling workers’ comp policies than any other state in the nation. And since 2006, the number of insurance companies writing workers’ comp policies in Illinois has jumped 13 percent. How could this possibly be the case if the conditions in Illinois didn’t already favor the interests of those insurers?
Illinois continues to improve in business rankings as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois ranked second among states where businesses are being created the fastest. In addition, Illinois moved up nine places and is ranked 19th in the 2015 CNBC poll ranking America’s top states for business.
The truth is that the 2011 rewrite of our state’s workers’ comp law – those changes sought by the business community, and which were largely to the detriment of men and women injured on the job due to no fault of their own – is producing the desired result: lower costs for insurance companies and employers.
The insurance industry would have the public believe that the state’s workers’ compensation system is too generous toward the interests of injured workers, but the fact is that it’s all that’s standing between those men and women – many of whom may no longer work due to their injuries – and impoverishment. Dependence on food stamps and reliance on public health care programs should not be the fate for Illinoisans injured at work, with the financial responsibility borne by the state’s taxpayers when it is rightly that of employers.
No matter how many benefits are cut, medical reimbursements are lowered, and claims are denied, the state’s businesses won’t see corresponding savings without our leaders addressing the promises previously broken by the insurance industry. Strictly regulating insurance premiums, not further curtailing injured workers’ rights, is the key to managing employers’ workers’ compensation costs.
Browder is president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. Source Article.
Voice of The Southern: Is Terri Bryant allergic to voting?
State Rep. Terri Bryant is doing her damnedest to amass the most milquetoast legislative voting record possible. Her middling quest for ambiguity is a disservice to voters and her office alike.
Bryant, R-Murphysboro, yet again refused to pick a side Wednesday night when House Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of SB 1229, legislation more concerned with empowering union bosses than serving the state.
The freshman Republican was in the chamber when the override died. She just didn’t cast a vote. Any vote. None. The roll merely registers Bryant as “no vote.”
It’s just the most recent addition to a disturbing pattern taking shape since Bryant took office in January.
Strong stand, indeed.
It’s just the most recent addition to a disturbing pattern taking shape since Bryant took office in January.
Put simply, she too often goes AWOL when strident leadership is most required.
Right-to-work zones: present. July’s temporary budget: no vote.
And those are just two instances where Bryant broke with many of her Republican colleagues. The House minority spent most of the defunct summer session voting “present,” protesting what members see as disingenuous legislation rushed to the floor by majority Democrats. It’s standard practice for a minority caucus rendered powerless by a veto-proof opposition.
Wednesday’s failed override, however, was something different.
Thirty-four Republicans opposed it, backing Rauner’s quest to force the state’s largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to the bargaining table. Nine lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — voted “present.” Just Bryant and John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, sat quietly at their desks and did nothing. Theirs is a tactic to go unnoticed. And, in so doing, Bryant’s lack of grit is growing increasingly obvious.
Bryant fears both Rauner’s massive war chest and her district’s entrenched union interests. Wednesday’s total inaction is, in effect, an attempt to avoid Rauner’s ire while also steering clear of union rage come re-election.
She wants it both ways.
But AFSCME has made it clear that anything but a “yes” vote wouldn’t do. Bryant’s lame attempt to fly under the radar won’t work.
Votes are the most telling statement of a lawmaker’s true priorities. They cut through the bluster and hyperbole. They’re official. They’re real.
Bryant is like a burglar trying to wipe away her fingerprints. Her constituents are the victims.
We know where Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, stood when he backed the override. Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, didn’t hide his union allegiance. Both men will most assuredly benefit from AFSCME support when they again seek office.
We disagree with both Phelps and Bradley on this one, but at least they had the guts to make their position known. It’s part of the record. And they’ll be judged accordingly. That’s the very essence of legislating.
Bryant, on the contrary, talks a good game and refuses to back it up. Her largest victory so far, naming Murphysboro the BBQ capital of Illinois, is the participation trophy of legislative achievement.
Bryant was elected to make tough choices. So far, she’s done nothing but run from them.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Southern Illinoisan editorial board, which consists of Publisher John Pfeifer, Editor Autumn Phillips, Opinion Page Editor Jon Alexander, Online Editor Alee Quick and community representative Jim Muir. Source Article
The Real FACTS
Here are the real FACTS about why these schemes – barring fair share in the public sector and promoting so-called “right-to-work” in the private sector- are simply WRONG.
WRONG FOR EMPLOYEES
These laws drive down wages for all workers, including non-union members. Workers living in the “right-to-work” states earn about $5,900 less per year than workers in states without these laws, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The wage penalty is even higher for women and workers of color.
EPI also found that workers in “right-to-work” states are less likely to have health insurance. The rate of employer-sponsored health insurance for workers in “right-to-work” states is 2.6% lower than in states without these harmful restrictions.
WRONG FOR THE ECONOMY
These laws do not improve the employment rate. In fact, 8 of the 12 states with the highest unemployment have “right-to-work” laws, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Wall Street ratings agency Moody’s said, “Since laws that hurt unions shift the balance of power from employees to owners, they tend to erode wages and lead to a more uneven distribution of the gains of economic growth.“
WRONG FOR COMMUNITIES
Communities lose jobs when wages are lowered by “right-to-work.” The Economic Policy Institute estimates that when wages are driven down, the local economy sheds jobs- because businesses have fewer customers who spend less.
With an educated workforce and good transportation, “Illinois’ business climate outshines its regional rivals.” The state Chamber of Commerce told the Chicago Tribune, “Illinois doesn’t need ‘right-to-work’ to compete with our neighbors.“
WHY GOV. RAUNER WANTS TO BAN FAIR SHARE AND PASS “RIGHT-TO-WORK”
Across the country, big business and the wealthy elite have launched an all-out attack on our right to form strong unions and advocate for better working conditions, safer workplaces, and the tools to do our jobs effectively.
Now they’ve brought their war on workers to Illinois. In the public sector, it’s Gov. Rauner’s order trying to wipe out “fair share” provisions of union contracts. In the private sector, it’s his push for local governments to establish so called “right-to-work” zones.
Barring Fair Share fees and passing “right-to-work” laws have the same intent – to weaken unions by allowing employees represented by a union to opt out of paying any dues or fees to contribute to the cost of that representation.
These measures are designed to weaken unions by draining them of resources so that they can’t effectively advocate to improve the lives of working families.
The wealthy elite who back these measures claim their schemes benefit workers, business, and our communities, but that is simply false. Research proves that such Right-to-Work for Less laws drive down wages, benefits, and the overall standard of living for workers and their families.
These changes are pushed by the same elite that is trying to slash benefits for injured or laid off workers, reduce overtime pay, weaken health and safey laws, and drive down wages and benefits. They know that when unions are strong, they not only raise wages of their members, but help to set a higher wage standard for all workers.
Right-to-Work and anti-Fair Share measures have only one goal– to weaken unions. In other words, they will only increase inequality in our country, where we’ve already seen the incomes of the wealthy soar while middle-class families are barely holding on.
The Union Difference
The UNION Difference.
1. Wages, benefits, and working conditions are protected by a legal contract.
1. Management can change wages, benefits, and working conditions unilaterally.
2. A contract spells out how much each worker earns.
2. No one knows how much anyone else earns. Disparate treatment/favoritism exists.
3. Unions negotiate raises for everyone. Members vote on it, and if they feel
it is unfair, they may vote it down.
3. If you want a raise, you must plead your case to a supervisor or manager.
4. If you are unfairly disciplined, unions provide due process to protect against
4. If you are unfairly disciplined, you are on your own (at-will employee). You are subject
only to policy.
5. If you don’t like something at work, you can work together to change it.
5. If you don’t like something at work, you are at the mercy of management.