Regarding “Democrats offer plenty of rhetoric, no solutions” (Our Views, April 28), in which I was described as one who engages in class warfare and the comments from my colleagues were skewed: Let me say that what we're facing here is working-class warfare upon Oklahoma labor.
Recently passed Oklahoma workers' compensation reforms came as a bit of a surprise to most, as 2011 reforms had just been formally enacted. But as Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers Union always said, “It's not about grapes or lettuce. It's always about people.” And I have a people-related theory as to the timing of Senate Bill 1062.
With the recent release of 2011 workplace safety data, a troubling trend in on-the-job injury and fatality has apparently sent a chill throughout Oklahoma business and industry whose leaders may see workers' comp reform as a hedge against an inevitable call for potentially costly improvements to workplace safety.
Oklahoma doesn't comply with OSHA, and recent labor statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that the question we need to be asking is “How safe are workers in Oklahoma?” and “How will workers' comp reforms protect business and further affect the safety of workers?”
Those killed or injured in the West, Texas, fertilizer plant now face what's known as “opt out” consequences. Oklahoma's SB 1062 requires an “opt out”: employer to only carry a $2 million policy with limits of $500,000 for medical expenses, per person. A few days in the burn unit and a family is broke.
Oklahoma is one of many states seeing an increase in its Hispanic population of documented workers, and, per the latest data, we now know that almost half of all workplace fatalities in the United States occur to documented Hispanic workers. Data released on Oct. 25, 2012, shows agriculture as one of two private industry sectors to experience an increase in the rate of injury and illness and crop and animal production are key employment areas for Oklahoma's Hispanic population.
Oklahoma is currently ranked as a state with employee injury and death rates statistically greater than national rates. As a Democrat whose plea to consider the workers has been described as “rhetoric and little else,” trust me, the savings in SB 1062 that The Oklahoman lauds as good policy come only at the expense of injured workers and their families.
Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, represents District 92 in the Oklahoma House.