Workers' comp bill draws debate in Quad Cities

The bill is on its way to Iowa's House floor for a vote

BETTENDORF, Iowa - A bill that would reduce workers' compensation benefits in Iowa is drawing heated differences in the Quad Cities. Republicans say the bill would make workers' comp more predictable for businesses. Unions say it would make it too hard to qualify for benefits. 

A spokesperson for Arconic thinks this bill corrects a system that he says has made workers' compensation too expensive for employers. The president of the local steelworkers union disagrees, saying this is yet another attack on Iowa's workers. 

"It hurts people in our communities, at our workplaces, in our families," said Brad Greve, the president of United Steelworkers Local 105. 

USW local 105 is the union representing workers at Arconic. Greve is fighting against HSB 169, which he says is an attack on hard working Iowans. For starters, he says it discriminates against older workers. 

"Hopefully people don't have to be working at 67, but if you're working and get injured, you have no benefits under this law after the age of 67," Greve said. 

The law also scales back benefits for people with pre-existing conditions. Plus, it makes it harder to prove an injury happened in the workplace. 

"We send those people out there to represent the normal, average citizen. It feels to me like they are only there representing business and maybe some party ideals," Greve said. 

John Riches is a spokesperson for Arconic: One of the Quad Cities' biggest employers. He says over the last 10 years, court cases and legislative changes have shifted workers' comp laws in favor of workers. He says now those laws put too much burden on employers. 

"I think the focus really has gotten off getting workers well and getting them back to work, and I think part of what we want to make sure we do is get them well, get them back to work, and control the cost for employers so that Iowa remains a competitive state from an overall employee cost standpoint," Riches said. 

While union workers remain committed to fighting against the bill, Riches says Arconic would benefit from the changes. 

"This legislation hopefully will bring those costs back in line and make the system better," Riches said. 

The workers' comp bill has passed through comittee. Its next step is to the Iowa house floor for a vote. 

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