by Max Brantley
The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, lobbyist-owned legislators and a succession of weak-willed governors have created a Workers Compensation Commission so slanted to employers that few attorneys bother to practice workers comp law any longer. Every year brings a joyous pronouncement from the Insurance Commission that workers comp rates have declined still more, on account of so few claims.
So it was nice to read this morning that the state Supreme Court is at least willing to consider the argument that the system is so unbalanced against workers that it is unconstitutional. On top of a punitively unfair law, two members of the Commission owe their seats to business and the third has often been the most nominal sort of neutral or pro-labor arbiter (during the Huckabee years, his chief of staff's husband, for example, filled the labor seat.) Tough beans, says the employer's lawyer in the case before the Court. That's politics.
I'd be remiss if I didn't say that the lonely, expensive and dedicated work of a Mountain Home lawyer, Rick Spencer, will be responsible if a measure of solace is provided for Arkansas workers.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't say Doug Smith of the Times has written a great deal about Spencer's efforts over the years.We felt a little lonely too as we detailed the bias against injured workers and no one else much seemed to mind. Such as here. Michael Whiteley, a former Democrat-Gazette reporter, did some good work too for a trade journal.
How bad are Arkansas employers? So bad that, until the Arkansas Court of Appeals, led by Wendell Griffen, put a stop to it, you were considered on your own time when you took a leak at work.