The Montana AFL-CIO boycotted an event yesterday hosted by the Montana State Fund, an event billed as one “honoring workers and the 1915 Worker’s Compensation Act.”
A press release from Al Ekblad, the union’s chief, described the State Fund as having “an active role in attacking workers, not honoring them.” Ekblad accused the State Fund of cutting benefits, taking away rights of injured workers to pick their own doctor, and working behind the scenes to deprive firefighters of presumptive illness coverage. Word on the street is that the State Fund had hoped that the popular Lt. Gov. Angela McLean would attend the event, but McLean, a strong supporter of working families, did not attend.
The State Fund is a public entity but is run like a massive for-profit corporation. Though it is charged under Montana law of providing a public option for businesses who seek affordable workers compensation insurance, it often follows what appears to be a predominantly profit-oriented motive, and does this by limiting payouts to injured workers to the extent it can. In other words, it operates like a private insurance company.
Ekblad accused the Fund of diverting profits to exorbitant salaries and benefits of its executives, some of which approach half a million bucks a year. Some of these are well known among Helenans, who have of course seen the giant and beautiful new building that the MSF built for itself a few years ago, which looks like something that might have been designed by Frank Gehry or some other world class architect. Meanwhile many state agencies budgets have been cut the extent that they are housed in crumbling buildings with mid-century wiring and rotting carpet in order to minimize the cuts the legislature made to services for those they serve.
In recent months the State Fund has shown questionable judgment. They ran an ad campaign with the slogan “Work Heals,” designed to get injured workers back on the job ASAP and thus help keep the State Fund’s coffers nice and full. But the ad campaign was pulled when it was pointed out that it resembled the Nazi campaign to promote the benefits of Auschwitz (“Work Sets You Free”), and besides that, was just insulting to laborers. Then early this year (speaking of Nazi-like rhetoric), just before the legislature convened the State Fund announced that it had chosen Matt Rosendale’s (R-Drone Shooter) campaign manager to be its new director of government relations, thus revealing where its sympathies lie.