WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor held a panel discussion today on the 50-year legacy of the Report of the National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws and whether the workers’ compensation system is fulfilling its obligation to injured workers, at its Frances Perkins Building headquarters in Washington.
The panel discussion, titled “50 Years after the National Commission: Is the Workers’ Compensation System Serving Injured Workers?” included the department’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs Director Chris Godfrey; former Chairman of the National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws, Professor John F. Burton Jr.; Northeastern University School of Law Professor Emily Spieler; and workers compensation attorney Alan Pierce.
“In the 50 years after the National Commission, we’ve seen a period of initial expansion, then a race to the bottom in most state workers’ compensation systems,” said Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs Director Chris Godfrey. “Millions of working people injured in the workplace are at great risk of falling into poverty because of the failure of state workers’ compensation systems to provide them with adequate benefits. This event was an opportunity to highlight the question of whether the workers’ compensation system is actually providing economic security for injured workers and their families, especially the most vulnerable workers.”
In July 1972 – roughly 50 years after the passage of the first state workers’ compensation laws – the National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws evaluated whether state workers’ compensation systems provided “adequate, prompt and equitable” compensation to injured workers. The reforms adopted in response to the commission’s recommendations have formed the basic structure of the modern workers’ compensation system in the U.S.
“As part of the department’s effort to help meet the needs of workers, we are working to provide employers, workers, federal agencies, state and local governments, and other advocates with a roadmap to advance the goal of quality jobs for all workers,” Godfrey added. “The principles of a good job must include workers’ compensation benefits that promote economic security, and safe, healthy, accessible workplaces for all workers.”