There’s trouble brewing for injured workers and even the people who serve them. Victory Insurance has set its sights on the Montana State Fund this Legislative Session. Victory Insurance prides itself as being “Montanan’s only private workers’ compensation insurance carrier.”
The State Fund, which handles a significant amount of worker compensation claims for people hurt on the job and is the insurer of last resort, has many problems. Their incredibly well-paid executives often put financial incentives ahead of the needs of injured Montana workers, their families and in fact, their own employees. This blog has highlighted the State Funds problem of diverting profits to exorbitant salaries and benefits of its executives, in particular President and CEO Lanny Hubbard whose hourly wage is, are you ready? A cool $146.64 every hour Hubbard sits on the third floor in his corner office. The State Fund has even worked behind the scenes to kill presumption of illness laws that would benefit fire fighters. Al Ekblad, Executive Secretary of the Montana AFL-CIO has described the State Fund as having “an active role in attacking workers, not honoring them.”
Things could get even worse. Victory Insurance wants to privatize (or “liquidate”) the Montana State Fund. Such a move would result in employees of the State Fund no longer being state employees, forfeiting union protections, and losing pensions. According to a letter posted on Facebook by the MPEA, all jobs would be lost. Furthermore, the State Fund’s mission would become even more profit-driven, which means even more abysmal outcomes for injured workers.
It appears that Victory Insurance has come to this session ready to play hardball. They have four lobbyists working the session and they’ve recently brought on former State Senator and congressional candidate Kim Gillan as a lobbyist. They know that targeting Democrats will be key. Interestingly, Gillan is also lobbying for Talen Energy, which is hoping to either extract a big pay day from Montana taxpayers or squelch on their commitments to workers in Colstrip.
One last note on Gillan who served in the House from 1996-2004 and the Senate from 2004-2012. When she termed out of both chambers she made an ill fated bid for Congress and handed the seat to Steve Daines. The Democrat turned corporate lobbyist received endorsements from organized labor in every election cycle. Ironically, labor has never failed to ask where a candidate stands on privatization. The answer must be ‘opposed’ to receive an endorsement. Like her fellow Senator Mary Caferro, Gillan only cared about her answers when she needed the boots and dollars of labor.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’