Union leaders and business groups are sparring at the statehouse over two bills long sought by organized labor. One bill would give employees who’re injured on the job the right to choose their own doctor.
Jan Lau, secretary/treasurer of the Iowa Federation of Labor, says it’s a matter of fairness. "You can’t help but think that the doctor that’s being paid by company and being referred by the company is going have more loyalty to that company than they do to you when you’re a complete stranger to them," Lau says. "On the other hand if you can go to your family doctor you know that they have your best interests at heart more so than the company’s."
Myron Lynn, compensation manager for Pella Corporation, says the doctors companies choose are familiar with the kinds of injuries workers suffer and can save time in diagnosing injuries a family doctor rarely sees. "It’s access to quality medical care, getting the person quickly to the right doctor whose specialty is treating the kind of injury that the individual has, working with the physician to get the person back to work as quickly as medically advisable to do so," Lynn says, "and back to full wages."
Lynn says most employees are satisfied with the company doctor. Of the 22,000 Iowans injured on the job last year, less than two percent requested alternate care. The "choice of doctor" bill cleared the Senate Labor Committee earlier today on a party-line vote.
Another labor bill advancing through the statehouse would require contractors working on government-financed construction projects to pay employees the "prevailing wage" in the area. Linda Hinton of the Iowa Association of Counties says the move would increase labor costs for local governments by as much as 20 percent — just as cities and counties struggle to repair storm damaged infrastructure. "Counties and all public entities will see a road construction season busier than, perhaps, anytime in the past," Hinton says. "Counties are already struggling to pay for this massive rebuilding infrastructure expense and burdening them for a requirement that will increase costs by millions of dollars may cause significant delay in needed repairs and improvements." The Iowa Association of School Boards predicts similar delays in school construction projects if the bill passes.
The House Labor Committee is scheduled to debate the bill Thursday.