Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee State House on Thursday passed a series of bills that will weaken rights and lower wages for Tennessee’s workforce. During the nearly four hour session, House Republicans voted to radically change the state workers’ compensation system and do away with the prevailing wage for construction workers.
“This year has been one major victory after another in the Republican Party’s war on working people in the state of Tennessee,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “The wealthy special interests have certainly gotten their money’s worth this year and it will be working families that have to pay the price for their indifference and greed.”
The Governor’s workers’ compensation changes will reduce payouts to injured workers by 1/3, make it easier to fire injured workers, and make it harder for workers to collect legitimate claims. In addition, the new law puts the appeals process out of the hands of local courts and into a new state-appointed bureaucracy underneath the beleaguered Department of Labor. Democrats had requested the Governor delay this legislation in response to the Comptroller audit which showed “internal controls…were ineffective or non-existent” with regard to the state’s unemployment insurance system.
“These are short-sighted changes that will result in more workplace injuries and higher rates of bankruptcy for injured workers,” said Chairman Turner. “All the while, these new changes do nothing to address the higher medical costs in Tennessee which are the reason our workers’ comp rates were higher in the first place.”
Also passing on Thursday was HB850 by Rep. Marsh (R-Shelbyville) which will eliminate prevailing wage protections for construction workers on state contracts.
The prevailing wage law was designed to prevent contractors from undercutting competition by driving down wages on workers. If the Governor signs this legislation into law; lower paid and lower skilled workers will be used to complete projects, causing delays and infrastructure problems down the road.
“Working people in this state are being driven down further and further as Republicans try to win a race to the bottom in wages, benefits, and job protections for Tennesseans,” said Chairman Turner. “Unfortunately, many working families in this state won’t realize the damage that has been done until it’s too late.”