Road constructionFederal labor officials this week are warning of a startling “race to the bottom” as, around the country, states continue to slash benefits for injured workers and set them up for a lifetime of poverty and reliance on government aid.

It is so alarming that the U.S. Department of Labor is calling for possible national minimum standards for workers’ compensation benefits and federal oversight when states fall short. Without intervention, officials say, the system will continue to put injured workers “on a pathway to poverty.”

Read the report

Watch this week's U.S. Department of Labor Workers' Compensation Forum

• From NPR: Labor report urges study of a federal role in state workers' comp laws

The report illustrates the real-world consequences for workers as Illinois’ corporate class pushes ahead with efforts to strip workers of their rights and protections. Workers’ compensation “reform” is a key component of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s agenda.

Proponents of the Rauner agenda argue that the way to bring more jobs to Illinois is to slash benefits for injured workers.

Unquestionably, Illinois needs a robust economy and a climate that is welcoming to manufacturers and other businesses. How we achieve that is up for debate, but I cannot get on board with any plan that puts employees at significant financial risk.

We need jobs that allow workers to support their families, but those workers also need to be able to go home safely to their loved ones. We shouldn’t sell out worker safety just so corporate executives can pad the bottom line.

Manufacturing jobs can be tough and demanding. They require skilled, trained workers.

But let me ask you something: What is your arm worth to you? If it’s crushed in a machine at work, rendering it useless from that day forward, how much would you expect your company to pay you for it? Could you find another job to support your family?

Think about the value of your arm – or your knees, your eyesight or your spine – the next time a CEO or a governor tells you that Illinois’ benefits for injured workers are too generous.

I’ll keep you posted on workers’ compensation developments in Illinois and the conversation taking place nationally.

In the meantime, please feel free to share this post with others who care about workers’ rights and would want to know about this new report. Click here to sign up for my working families newsletter for regular updates regarding labor, wages and more in Illinois.

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