There is no question that the game of football is dangerous. National Football League players get injured on the job – so many that an “injury report” section is ubiquitous in our sports pages. In fact, a study run by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that the risk of death associated with neurodegenerative disorders is about three times higher among NFL players than the rest of the population.
NFL athletes are not merely players, they are also employees.
Their employers are now trying to take away their collectively bargained right to workers’ compensation benefits in California. It is not right, and it sets a dangerous precedent.
Assembly Bill 1309 singles out one group of workers, professional athletes, and treats them differently than other employees by denying them the right to file for California Workers’ Compensation benefits.
AB 1309 is an attempt by the insurance companies and professional teams to shift the cost of care for injured players from the companies to state agencies like Medi-Cal and federal agencies like Medicare.
This legislative session brought some exciting victories as well as some deep disappointments. Labor accomplished big things this year that benefit all Californians but when it came to advancing worker protections, many of those bills were vetoed.
Arnold Schwarzenegger rode into the Governor’s office in 2004 on the campaign promise to “fix” the workers’ compensation system. Every day in 2004, the media hammered home Schwarzenegger’s talking points that California’s highest-in-the-nation workers’ compensation costs were driving employers, and jobs, out of the state.
In the face of a relentless media campaign and the threat of an extreme workers’ comp reform ballot measure, the Legislature passed SB 899 in 2004—a draconian bill that gutted the workers’ compensation system and created more pain and suffering for injured workers.
Since SB 899, permanently disabled workers have seen their benefits slashed to the bone. Medical treatment is delayed and denied by insurance companies, sometimes for over a year. As a result, injured workers are stuck at home battling insurance companies for the medical care they need, with no ability to return to work.
After eight years of watching injured workers struggle with a slashed permanent disability schedule,