The powerful N.C. Chamber, which is in the midst of a heated battle to overhaul the state's workers' compensation system, is asking its business members to direct some of their cash flow to the cause.
"Our lobbyists are working around-the-clock and going toe-to-toe with our opposition — but it will take an organized, united business community to get this legislation passed!" Lew Ebert, the chamber's president, wrote in an e-mail message to the organization's members last week. "We hope you'll consider giving to our workers' comp campaign."
The funding plea came a week after Ebert noted in his "president's memo" that "plaintiffs' lawyers and labor unions are already mounting a well-financed, coordinated attack on this [Chamber-supported] bill. They flooded the legislature ... to oppose the legislation even before it had been introduced!"
Ebert is promising an all-out effort to educate the public on the need for revising a system that he views as too costly for business.
A key component of bills pending in the state House and Senate would be a cap on income benefits for most workers at 500 weeks. That would be in line with South Carolina and Virginia and more than 400 weeks available in Tennessee and Georgia.
The chamber and other critics complain the current system invites abuse and has the unintended consequence of providing injured workers with an incentive to stay home.
Supporters — led by attorneys who represent injured workers and organized labor — contend that scaling back benefits would shift costs from businesses to taxpayers. The aim of the business lobby, they argue, is to push injured workers who can't perform their old jobs into unsuitable jobs that pay much less.