Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Workers' comp bill hits snag


United Mine Workers union critical of black lung proposal

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Organized labor officials said Monday the Patton administration proposal to overhaul the workers' compensation program for black lung disease is unfair to miners.

        “Basically, the whole procedure's rigged,” said Steve Earle, political director of the United Mine Workers Union.

        Bill Londrigan, president of the state AFL-CIO, said Gov. Paul Patton appeared to be making a good faith effort to make workers' compensation benefits more accessible to miners who have developed pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease. It just doesn't go far enough, he said.

        “We don't think any of these issues are insurmountable,” Mr. Londrigan said.

        The proposal got its first formal legislative review Monday before the interim Labor and Industry Committee, where some members also appeared skittish.

        Rep. J.R. Gray, D-Benton, the pro-labor chairman of the House committee, said he could not vote for the bill as it is now put together.

        Black lung is a respiratory disease that can be caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. Some forms of the disease can show up in small, relatively harmless spots on lung tissue. Advanced forms of the disease can dramatically impair breathing ability.

        Until 1996, there were thousands of black lung claims each year and about three-fourths resulted in some workers' compensation benefit. Coal mining companies complained miners took advantage of the system, which made virtually any exposure to coal dust eligible for benefits.

        Changes in 1996 legislation dramatically swung the pendulum. There are now only about 125 claims filed each year and 70 percent of them are dismissed.

        Mr. Patton, who pushed the 1996 changes and has been sharply criticized by mine workers since, proposed the latest modifications, which Workers' Claims Commissioner Walt Turner told the committee would make the system more fair and accessible.

       



Teachers working into pay-for-performance
Faith leads teens to capital protest
PULFER: Science textbooks don't tell whole story
Riverboat casinos pull in $497 million
Ind. gamblers might soon skip the cruise
UC going ahead with mansion over city's objection
Bengals withheld seats from sale
Death stalks Ross High
FDA approves hepatitis drug
Health care tax apt to be on May ballot
Hospitals divvy up pediatric care
Man found dead after fire
Sex charges go back a decade
Slain woman's mother still seeking body
Firefighter saved from icy lake
Florence council hesitant to fund ballpark
Airport seeks grant for precision navigation
Awards recognize aid to handicapped
Four more charter schools for Cincinnati
High school revamp OK'd
Board to discuss role in adult education
Fire destroys Whitewater home
Fox blasts court, says it delays child cases
Indiana governor pushes daylight-saving time
Kentucky Digest
Local Digest
Monks show art at NKU
Where does electric power come from? Kids find out
Wife gets deal in pot case
Doctor pleads guilty to defrauding insurers
Ten Commandments donations dwindle
- Workers' comp bill hits snag