I recently read a letter to the editor by Gary Koocher, “Proposed workers’ comp reforms are Mills’ gift to labor” (April 28).

For eight years, under then-Gov. Paul LePage, Paul Sighinolfi, as executive director of the Workers’ Compensation Board, was nothing but a puppet for LePage and the insurance lobby that lives at the State House.

As a Workers’ Compensatlon Board member, Koocher sits on the side of business and states that businesses will be negatively impacted by proposed reform. He states that there was collaboration between business and labor over LePage’s and Sighinolfi’s terms. Where exactly was Koocher during the eight years when injured workers lost more rights than at any other time in history? Koocher does not say one word about the injured workers, the folks who went to work and were injured, many because of companies that failed to reduce hazards and exposures.

Since the “Grand Bargain” in 1992, Koocher claims, workers’ comp as a controversial subject fell off the radar. That couldn’t be further from the truth for injured workers. The rest of the story is simply that today’s Legislature and governor understand that when a Mainer gets injured at work, they should not have to worry about losing their home, their car or their ability to put food on the table. And they certainly should not be cut off from benefits after a period of time after having been injured at work.

Koocher’s comment that Gov. Mills purposely chose to take what she called “a different direction” is absolutely correct. Replacing Sighinolfi and considering a “different direction” is exactly what should have happened. And for Koocher to blame labor unions and attorneys for protecting those injured at work? Well, I say hooray for them for standing up to corporations, the insurance lobby and Koocher himself. After all, no worker goes to work wanting or expecting to be injured.

Patrick Carleton

vice president, Maine AFL-CIO; president, United Steelworkers Local 900, Sappi Paper


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