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Since the late 19th century, labor unions have been around to protect the rights of workers and improve employees’ lives through the process of collective bargaining. A union is any group of people who work together for a common cause affecting the workplace. Unions throughout history have fought for fair wages, benefits, and better working conditions. They’ve also made great changes in statewide workers’ compensation programs. Without unions, California’s system would look much different today.
In California, labor unions impact the workers’ compensation system by pushing for safety improvements, lowering the cost of insurance for employees, and enacting rules such as labor agreements that hold an employee’s job during injury/illness recovery. Unions enact these changes through a process called collective bargaining. Union workers and employers will meet to discuss the issue at hand. The union will present its argument, and employers will decide whether or not to agree to the union’s demands or present a counterargument.
Bargaining between the union and employers is ongoing, not just a one-time event. If the union is unsatisfied with the outcome of an effort, it can initiate a labor strike or work stoppage, putting pressure on the employer to concede to demands or strike a “bargain.” The success of these efforts will vary depending on the situation. When it comes to making improvements to California’s workers’ comp system, unions have had success in the past. Yet, union workers may find themselves facing separate rules when filing workers’ comp claims.
In some cases, union workers have more rights and employee protections than non-union workers. Like all other workers, union employees have the right to workers’ compensation benefits in California after job-related injuries or illnesses. However, since union jobs subject workers to collective bargaining agreements, workers’ comp claims and benefits may look different to union employees. The employer will set employees’ rights and duties regarding workers’ comp benefits. Union workers will have to obey these rules based on a collective bargaining agreement, which serves as a labor contract.
Union workers may need to follow different rules for filing workers’ compensation claims in California. At many workplaces, workers’ comp rules and provisions under collective bargaining agreements are the same as state laws. In some cases, however, they may differ. Ask your employer if special rules apply to you at your union job before filing. You will need to carefully review the collective bargaining contract to understand your rights and responsibilities after a workplace injury.
Most unions have welfare funds that may issue benefits to injured workers. Employers may contribute to these funds, while union trustees keep track of and administer them to workers. Union members may collect these funds for work-related injures, healthcare, dental work, paid leave, disability, and life insurance. Some labor unions maintain separate welfare funds specifically for work-related injuries. Discovering your rights as an injured union or non-union worker may require help from an attorney. Workers’ compensation lawyers can help California workers take the best actions for maximum benefits after a workplace accident.