You go to work each day, and hope for the best – that you will be able to keep your job and avoid injuries that could make doing your job impossible. In the meantime, you pay your union dues faithfully, without necessarily knowing how participation in a union will enable you to maintain your livelihood. You may be surprised to learn that a union worker has a greater likelihood of collecting workers’ compensation following an on-the-job injury, compared to a non-union worker’s chances of receiving those benefits.

In fact, a comprehensive study covering thousands of workers over a fifteen-year period shows that union workers are at least sixty percent more likely than non-union workers to receive workers’ compensation payments.

Comprehensive study pinpoints the differences

The study – “Workers’ Compensation Recipiency in Union and Nonunion Workplaces,” by Barry T. Hirsch, David A. Macpherson, and J. Michael DuMond – was published in Industrial and Labor Relations Review. The results identified a number of subtle and not-so-subtle reasons why a union worker has a better chance of collecting his or her benefits.

Although employers are liable for workers’ on-the-job injuries regardless of who is at fault, there is little doubt that they do not like to pay workers’ compensation. Left to their own devices, they will do everything they can to discourage the filing of claims and deny those made. So why are union workers more successful at actually getting those claims approved and collecting benefits? The two main reasons why unions are able to extract workers’ compensation benefits from employers at a higher rate are information and balance of power.

Union workers have access to more information and receive protection from various actions employers may take to prevent them from getting benefits. Here is how it works:

  • Union workers have easier access to information about benefit levels, filing procedures, and waiting periods than do their non-union counterparts. Not knowing if, how, or when to file are major obstacles to claiming benefits.
  • Union supervisors are more likely to inform injured workers about the benefits filing procedures and less likely to discourage workers from filing claims.
  • Under union contracts, management has less discretion and ability to monitor workers and penalize them for what they consider questionable claims.
  • Union workers are less likely to fear penalization – for example, by later having a promotion denied or receiving reassignment – due to grievance procedures that identify and disallow these penalties.

If you are a union worker who has been hurt on the job, you should contact your union steward immediately to find out what kind of assistance and protection your union provides.

A Guide to Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation

What is workers’ compensation?

If you sustain a job injury or a work-related illness, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides for your medical expenses and, in the event you are unable to work, wage-loss compensation benefits until you are able to return. Additionally, spouses and dependent children receive death benefits following your work-related death.

Benefits are paid by private insurance companies, by the State Workers’ Insurance Fund (a state-run workers’ compensation insurance carrier), or by employers themselves, if they are self-insured.

Covered workers

Nearly every worker in Pennsylvania receives coverage under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act. Employers must provide workers’ compensation coverage for all of their employees, including seasonal and part-time workers. Non-profit corporations, unincorporated businesses, and even employers with only one employee must comply with the Act’s requirements. Pennsylvania employees covered by other compensation laws include Federal civilian employees, railroad workers, longshoremen, and shipyard and harbor workers.

Workers’ comp cases have been declining in Pennsylvania

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor reported in December of 2010 that workers’ on-the-job injuries and illnesses had declined in number since the previous year. There were 88,973 lost-time work injury and illness cases reported to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in 2009, which was 14.7 percent lower than the 104,275 reported in 2008. Fatalities decreased to 100 in 2009 from 154 reported in the previous year.

Applying for Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits

Prompt reporting is essential to securing your benefits. You must immediately tell your employer that you suffered an injury during the course of employment and inform your employer of the date and place of injury. Failure to notify your employer can result in the delay or denial of benefits.

Once you have lost a day, shift or turn of work, your employer is required to report your injury to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation by filing a First Report of Injury. Your employer may choose to either accept or deny the claim. If they deny your claim, you have the right to file a claim petition with the bureau for a hearing before a workers’ compensation judge.

Additional benefits available to injured union workers

If you are a union worker, you may also be eligible for additional benefits through your union and for assistance in claiming your benefits under workers’ compensation laws. A knowledge Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney can provide invaluable help when you are in this situation by working in conjunction with your union to inform you about the benefits available and to help you to secure all the assistance you need and deserve.

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