The Oklahoma Coalition For Workers Rights (OCWR) is a non-profit corporation formed to promote a better workplace for all Oklahoma employees. The Coalition is focusing on changes in current law to restore workers’ compensation benefits taken away from Oklahoma’s working families, to stop the erosion of the safety net protecting those Oklahoma workers who find themselves temporarily unemployed, and to promote a higher minimum wage for Oklahoma workers. The Coalition will vigorously pursue public policies consistent with the issues stated above through education programs, through advocating changes in laws that will help Oklahoma families, and through the promotion of public discussions of issues adversely affecting Oklahoma workers. Members of the OCWR include worker advocates from diverse groups of employees including organized labor, police, fire, teachers, nurses, vocational rehabilitation advocates, public employees, and many others.
Senate Bill 1062 became effective on February 1st, 2014, and has created a disaster for working Oklahomans (and their families) who suffer an on-the-job injury. Benefits have been cut for workers with disabilities from 30-90%. Rights to recover have been stripped from Oklahoma employees by allowing employers to opt out of the system altogether while granting those employers full legal protection by allowing them immunity from employee legal actions. Legislative and business leaders have touted the changes as helping workers by making the system easier to manage without mentioning the disastrous benefit cuts that will result in Oklahoma workers receiving the lowest disability benefits in the United States. The OCWR is calling for these misrepresentations to end now and that benefits to Oklahoma workers be restored. The new law is resulting in a huge amount of waste through needless litigation that will show that these changes made on the backs of our workers are clearly unconstitutional and have resulted in a system where the exclusive remedy that workers’ compensation is intended to provide is no remedy at all.
Changes in eligibility for unemployment benefits has resulted in new hurdles an employee faces when applying for jobless benefits. New restrictions have been enacted which intend to deny benefits by expanding the definition of employee misconduct to include simply not living up to a supervisor’s expectations. These expansions of the definition of misconduct are creating an unlevel playing field for Oklahoma employees seeking benefits to get them through a period of unemployment. The OCWR believes these erosions of workers rights should end and that fair and equitable definitions of who is able to recover unemployment benefits should be enacted.
Increases raising the minimum wage in the Congress have stalled in recent years, a victim of Congressional inaction. Oklahoma should join the states who have passed state minimum wage laws to insure all Oklahoma workers receive a living wage. The OCWR is calling for our legislature to enact a state minimum wage of at least $9.75 per hour.