Western Growers’ board of directors last week unanimously voted to endorse the Workers’ Compensation Reform and Accountability Act, the proposed workers’ compensation initiative. The Act targets fraud and abuse, guarantees fair compensation for verifiable injuries, places qualified doctors in charge of treatment, bases treatment decisions on facts and evidence and balances the rights of injured workers with the interests of their employers.
The 45-member board, which represents about 3,000 employers, is comprised of the largest producers of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts in the United States. For the past two years, Western Growers’ members have ranked reforming the workers’ compensation system as their number one concern.
“The fresh produce industry has been particularly damaged by the current system. Our state’s farmers cannot simply pick up their land and move to another state. Reform is critical to the continued health of our industry and the state’s economy,” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers. “Our first choice is that the Legislature fix the problem, but if the Legislature fails to do its job, we are left with no other choice than to actively participate in the initiative process.”
The cost for workers’ compensation has risen 136 percent in the last four years, with some companies experiencing 300 percent increases. California employers pay the highest workers’ compensation costs in the nation, with an average of $6.33 of every $100 of payroll vs. the national average of $2.46.
Western Growers is currently distributing petitions to their members to gather signatures in support of the initiative. Signatures are due to the Secretary of State’s office by April 16, which would place the proposal on the November ballot. The association is also calling on their members to contact their state legislators.
The Committee For Workers’ Compensation Reform and Accountability is sponsoring the initiative. They represent thousands of California business owners and workers. For more information on the proposed initiative, visit www.reformworkerscomp.com.
Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose 3,000 members grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh vegetables and nearly 70 percent of the fresh fruit and nuts grown in Arizona and California, about one-half of the nation’s fresh produce. For more information, visit www.wga.com.
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