A week ago,8wrote in this space about proposed legislation to limit injured Ohioan’s freedom to choose their own doctors for treatment of work-related injuries. Although H.B. 517 did not pass, it is expected that a new bill with very similar proposed “reforms” of the workers’ compensation system will be introduced in the coming year, and that legislation touted as necessary to create a business friendly environment and create jobs will play a prominent role in next year’s statewide elections. This is yet another example of the trend I wrote about some weeks back in which governors and legislators, seeking to improve business conditions and set the stage for economic growth, push for laws which appear to be beneficial to business, while ignoring the adverse impact these policies may have on injured and disabled workers. In my earlier remarks, I suggested that such policies do not appear to have resulted in meaningful improvement in the state’s economy.
Recent reports offer further evidence that improving economic conditions so that all Ohioans may benefit requires more than simply stripping away legal and economic protection from workers. On December 21, The Columbus Dispatch reported that Ohio’s economy lost 12,000 jobs in November alone, and more than 23,000 in the past six months. A Cleveland television station reported earlier this month that recent statistics rank Ohio 44th out of 50 states in job creation during 2013.
No one disputes the importance of strengthening Ohio’s economy, boosting employment, and creating opportunity, especially for the approximately 427,000 Ohioans looking for work. Neither does anyone suggest that this is an easy task. It should, however, be apparent by now that taking away economic and legal protections which were intended to protect injured workers and their families is neither a necessary or sufficient means to improve opportunity and promote prosperity. In the spirit of the season, I ask you to join in wishing that our elected leaders be given the gift of a bigger, brighter vision of a strategy for economic development which does not merely benefit some at the expense of many others but instead leads to real opportunity for all.