Monthly Archives:' April 2015

The Demolition of Workers’ Comp

DENNIS WHEDBEE’S CREW WAS RUSHING to prepare an oil well for pumping on the Sweet Grass Woman lease site, a speck of dusty plains rich with crude in Mandaree, North Dakota.

It was getting late that September afternoon in 2012. Whedbee, a 50-year-old derrickhand, was helping another worker remove a pipe fitting on top of the well when it suddenly blew.

Oil and sludge pressurized at more than 700 pounds per square inch tore into Whedbee’s body, ripping his left arm off just below the elbow. Coworkers jerry-rigged a tourniquet from a sweatshirt and a ratchet strap to stanch his bleeding and got his wife on the phone.

“Babe,’’ he said, “tell everyone I love them.”

Trinity Guardrails Court Files Must Be Open, Court Rules

Good news! Yesterday, in a high-profile case involving the safety of highway guardrails, Harman v. Trinity, the court ordered that all the court records in the case be made open to the public.

As we’ve explained both on this blog and in our briefing to courts, keeping court documents sealed regarding unsafe products has a real human cost. If corporations are allowed to keep secret the claims against them, gun manufacturers can hide that their guns fire without anyone pulling the trigger and car manufacturers can hide that their cars stall unexpectedly on the highway. There is no question that those secrets have caused people to die.

South Carolina to SCOTUS: We Can Discriminate Against Women, So Why Not Gays?

By: Mark Joseph Stern, Slate Magazine

Originally published on April 9, 2015

One key problem with originalism—the theory that the Constitution should be interpreted as its drafters understood it—is that the men who wrote our constitution had some pretty barbaric views about humanity. The author of the Bill of Rights, James Madison, owned hundreds of slaves. The same Congress that passed the 14th Amendment segregated schools and opposed women’s suffrage. Under originalist theory, almost every landmark equality case, including Brown v. Board of Education, is almost certainly wrong. Few originalists, however, have the courage to admit that their theory would lead to an appallingly unequal and unjust America.

South Carolina, it turns out, is the glittering exception to this cowardice. In a jaw-dropping amicus brief recently filed with the Supreme Court, the state’s attorney general argues for a truly originalist understanding of the 14thAmendment, insisting that the Constitution permits discrimination not just against gays, but also against women. This argument is as morally abhorrent as it is historically accurate. And South Carolina deserves some credit for having the chutzpah to raise it.   

Walmart, Lowe's, Safeway, and Nordstrom Are Bankrolling a Nationwide Campaign to Gut Workers' Comp

By: Molly Redden, MotherJones

Originally published on March 26, 2015

Nearly two dozen major corporations, including Walmart, Nordstrom, and Safeway, are bankrolling a quiet, multistate lobbying effort to make it harder for workers hurt on the job to access lost wages and medical care—the benefits collectively known as workers’ compensation.

The companies have financed a lobbying group, the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC), that has already helped write legislation in one state, Tennessee. Richard Evans, the group’s executive director, told an insurance journal in November that the corporations ultimately want to change workers’ comp laws in all 50 states. Lowe’s, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Sysco Food Services, and several insurance companies are also part of the year-old effort.

How the Roberts Supreme Court Has Strengthened the Powerful and Screwed Everyone Else

From criminal justice to workers’ and voting rights to campaign finance, it has defied customs that buttress the Court’s legitimacy.

John Roberts is entering the stretch run of his tenth term as chief justice of the United States. In-depth assessments will come, but the preliminary results are plain. The man who vowed to act as a neutral umpire calling balls and strikes has led a Court in which racial and religious minorities, women, workers and consumers have struck out regularly, while the economically and politically powerful have walked around the bases.