Unions, Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Prepare Opposition to Hoch Confirmation
Some union leaders and attorneys for injured workers are organizing "a mass turnout" to protest Division of Workers' Compensation Director Andrea Hoch's Senate confirmation, which the Rules Committee on Friday postponed in order to give interested parties "more time to file comments," the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, the groups are planning a "coordinated attack" against Hoch, who helped implement rules establishing guidelines for determining workers' compensation insurance payments for permanently injured workers.
According to the Times, "dozens" of workers plan to testify at the confirmation hearing. In addition, the California Applicants' Attorneys Association, which represents injured workers, has asked its members to write letters opposing Hoch's confirmation. Union public relations officials also are expected to "stage media events," the Times reports.
Union leaders say that the regulations Hoch issued Jan. 1 reduce workers' compensation benefits by as much as 50%. Supporters of the regulations say that the new system increases fairness and objectivity without reducing benefits.
According to the Times, "The battle over the Hoch appointment is just one part of the broader conflict between the forces of labor" and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and "his business allies" and "could mark the beginning of a yearlong battle between the governor and organized labor."
To remain in office, Hoch must be confirmed by the Senate by April 25, one year after she was appointed. The Schwarzenegger administration has said that removing Hoch would slow the implementation of legislation to reform the state workers' compensation insurance system.
California Labor Federation lobbyist Angie Wei said, "We want [Hoch] to follow the law, and if she doesn't, she should not be the administrative director." Wei added, "We don't like to oppose confirmations, but in this case we have been left with no choice. The governor needs to know that breaking a deal does not work around here."
Barry Broad, a lobbyist for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said, "The governor had declared war on organized labor. He calls the lowest-paid workers in the state 'special interests' and the corporations, who make (political) contributions, decent people. When you're attacked and attacked, you just have to fight back."
Schwarzenegger spokesperson Vince Sollitto said, "It's no surprise that the opponents of reform feel beleaguered. Special interests always fight tooth and nail to protect their gravy train." He added that opposition groups are working under the "the misguided hope that the fervor for reform has faded."
Jim Little, president and CEO of Employers Direct Insurance, said that Hoch "has been probably the most proactive director I've seen in that job for years. The woman has done a fantastic job of getting things done."
California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg said that "the only thing [Hoch is] guilty of is following the Legislature's intent to reduce costs" for employers in the state workers' compensation insurance system.
Senate Rules Committee member Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach) said, "I've got a stack of correspondence [about the Hoch nomination]. If I read it all, I would think I was dealing with two completely different people" (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 2/21).