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Players Unions Send Memo Hoping to Thwart Today’s Passage of California Workers Comp Bill 1309

The players unions for professional football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer have sent a memo to California lawmakers, urging them to vote no on a workers compensation bill that would gut that state’s unique law, which protects professional athletes on teams in that state as well as those who work for teams in other states, but compete in California.

A change in the law could dramatically affect any concussion-related benefits that pro athletes may receive.

The memo, which is signed by the heads of each union, follows:

We are writing to you as the Executive Directors of our respective Players Associations–the (NFLPA), (WNBPA), (NBPA), (MLBPA), (NHLPA), (PHPA), and the (MLSPU)–to express our firm and unanimous opposition to current efforts by pro sports teams and leagues to limit or eliminate workers compensation benefits for our members in California.

AB 1309 ignores the fact that all workers compensation costs for most professional athletes, other than Major League Baseball, are paid out of the athletes side of the salary cap. As part of the collective bargaining process, athletes agreed to have less money available for salaries in order to ensure that they will have workers compensation benefits.

The only cost to California is a relatively small amount from the California Insurance Guarantee Association (CIGA) fund. Apparently, the cost to the CIGA fund for professional athletes is $4 million annually. Our players have agreed to work with Assembly member Perea to fix the asserted CIGA problem by changing the statute to no longer allow out-of-state professional teams were there players to have access to CIGA coverage. Assembly member Perea has chosen not to take the CIGA language.

And the proponents fail to mention that out-of-state athletes pay California personal income taxes on a formula that resulted in California receiving $161 million in 2010 and that is expected to be about $300 million in revenue to California in 2013.

Another glaring inequity of AB 1309 is the retroactive application of this bill. As written, this bill would apply to all pending claims; even claims that have been fully litigated and are awaiting decision, discriminating against a single class of injured workers. Thousands of injured players whose cases are in suit would be left without remedy. To use an ex post facto law to deprive people of their rights is wrong.

The proponents of the bill commissioned a study by the Milliman firm. This study expressly states that it is based upon unverifiable information, lack of information, and that if additional information became available the results could vary. In other words, it is unreliable.

Finally, the author amended the so-called “Joe Montana rule”, but adopted language that would say that a player who played most of his career in California still would not be eligible to file a workers compensation claim in this state if they did not play eight years or 80% of their career with one California team. This language sets a very unrealistic bar for most professional athletes to reach as the average professional athlete plays less than five years.

Again, we would like to restate that other than the CIGA costs mentioned above, out-of-state professional athletes filing claims in California have no financial impact on the employers or the taxpayers of the state. We, the undersigned union leaders overwhelmingly agree that no costs for our player’s workers compensation coverage should be paid for by anyone other than the leagues of our respective sports.

If you have any questions, please contact Aaron Read, Randy Perry or Terry McHale at (916) 448-3444.

(Editor’s Note: The actual text of the bill can be found here: http://bit.ly/ZBO60d )

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