11-7-2017; Overstaffed and Overpaid IL Gov’t Workers—Over-Taxation Has To Follow in This State, If There Is Anyone Left; John Karis on New OSHA Head and more

Synopsis: Overstaffed and Overpaid Gov’t Workers—At Some Point, Over-Taxation Has To Follow in This State, If There Is Anyone Left.


Editor’s comment: We are at the start of the IL Governor’s election. Illinoisans are seeing TV ads from the Governors of Missouri, Indiana and Wisconsin thanking our political system for greatly helping their economies, as new jobs flow out of IL and into their bailiwicks.


I was quoted in a great article in WorkCompCentral by J. Todd Foster about all the new and improved IL WC Arbitrators we have added to our roster of hearing officers. I remain mildly stunned to see we didn’t cut the total number of Arbitrators but appeared to actually add more hearing officers. There was no warning of that decision, as everything about personnel is still done in secret and behind closed doors.


If you look at this website below, you can see hundreds of jobs/business are fleeing this State. In my view, businesses are reacting to the miserable job our IL General Assembly has done over the last several decades. I consider it ludicrous to hear claims Governor Rauner has any role in the financial mess that is IL Gov’t. He hasn’t been around long enough to be a scapegoat, yet. Please also remember the nutty State budget he tried valiantly to block was and is a continuing financial disaster and is hastening our approach to financial Armageddon. While I am sure Governor Rauner is trying to make things in this State make financial sense, I don’t get that feeling at all from the other side of the aisle. If I am wrong, please send me whatever you have on it.




Why Do I Say Overstaffed and Overpaid Gov’t Workers?


With apologies to the one state agency I have worked in front of for almost four decades, I consider them grossly overstaffed. It isn’t my opinion, so much as it is simple math. Let me take you back in a time machine to year 2001.




In the IWCC's 2001 report which is about 15 years ago, the IWCC was spending $10M a year. See page 5. New IL WC claims filed were just under 60,000 a year or 59,320. See page 18. With a shelf-life of 3 years, there were about 180,000 pending claims in year 2001.


Take a ride 15 years forward to year 2016. Compare:




The IWCC's 2016 report drops/omits their annual budget; it isn't mentioned that I can find. I know it is about $31M a year from other sources. Look at page 6--about 41,000 new claims filed in 2016. That is 1/3 less than the new IL WC claims in 2001. With a three year shelf life, there are about 120,000 pending IL WC claims—all IL WC claims are down by one-third or so. No one is talking about cutting a dime from their budget or laying off unneeded workers.


If You Compare 2001 to 2016:


In 2001, we had about 18 Arbitrators or front line hearing officers. There were six Commissioners who are the IL WC second level "review/appeal" officers. That totals 24 hearing officers at the time.


In 2016, we have something like 32 Arbitrators and 9 Commissioners. That is 17 more hearing officers or 41 in total. In my view, nothing is moving “faster” or more efficiently with all these new folks at the IWCC. We also have stupid “remote offices” that are a complete waste of money. I have at least five other ways our State could easily start cutting the IWCC budget in a fashion that wouldn’t reduce benefits for IL injured workers in any meaningful way. If you want examples, send a reply.


You do the math but to my thinking we have about


-          One-third less IL WC claims

-          But 40% more hearing officers and

-          The Annual IWCC Budget more than tripled from $10M to about $31M

-          All that money comes from a levy on IL Business. This is assuming some businesses will remain to shoulder the increasing load.


The only reason I can imagine why gov’t payroll and the budget keeps rising is politics, pure and simple. With the State of IL about $250,000,000,000 in debt and WC claims dropping on an annual basis, couldn't they start cutting back on staff?


      Please don’t stop there—also compare Cook County Prisons where the inmates are down 30 per cent but the number of guards is up 10%.




      Add Sangamon County where newly filed court claims are dramatically down but no one is talking about cutting a dime from County Court budgets.




      Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, who used to be an IL workers’ comp lawyer, continues to chronicle the massive rise in debt for cities, villages and towns across Cook County. Their combined debt is now $139,000,000,000 which has skyrocketed 30% in just six years. That is just one county in a State with 102 counties! Some of those gov’ts are certain to start going broke before we know it. Perhaps the most shameful city is Blue Island, IL where their fake gov’t pension plan is only 3% de-funded!




I remain amazed no one is cutting or even talking about cutting wildly expensive gov’t staff. In my view, our Illinois politicians at every level are overstaffing and overpaying gov't workers. With fake or “de-funded” gov’t pensions, I have advised many gov’t workers can put in 10% of their income for a short period of time to then reap literally millions of tax dollars in retirement. In my view, it is highway robbery that is certain to bankrupt our gov’ts—if you want examples, send a reply.


The reason they are doing so is to insure they turn lots of dedicated gov’t workers into loyal voters and election organizers. Very few people now vote--voter turnout for many elections is less than 10% of the electorate. If you can get 5% of the eligible electorate to support and vote for you, you will win lots of elections in this State.


The only problem will come when it is time to pay the piper. We just saw one tax revolt in Cook County with the demise of the silly soda tax. Please assume more taxpayer revolts are going to follow and/or more businesses are leaving with jobs that will never return. In short, if our gov’ts are going to overstaff and overpay their workers, at some point over-taxation or financial Armageddon is sure to follow.


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Synopsis: Trump Finally Picks Head of OSHA. Research and Analysis by John Karis, J.D.

Editor’s comment: President Trump has nominated Scott Mugno, vice president for safety at FedEx Ground, to head the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the White House announced last Friday. Mugno’s name has been circulating as a likely candidate to head OSHA since shortly after Trump took office. Mugno’s nomination to the position of assistant secretary of labor, occupational safety and health, will be subject to Senate approval.

The announcement of his impending nomination comes as the agency has been without an administrator for nine months, a situation that is causing consternation for some. Mugno would take over from Loren Sweatt, who has served as acting assistant secretary of labor since July 24. Sweatt is the agency’s deputy assistant secretary of labor and President Trump’s first OSHA appointee.

Mugno has been with FedEx since 1994, starting out as a senior attorney with FedEx Express. He served as managing director of corporate safety, health and fire prevention for FedEx Express from 2000 to 2011, and then became vice president for safety, sustainability and vehicle maintenance for FedEx Ground in the Pittsburgh area.

Experts in the field say Mugno would be different from past OSHA administrators because of his background in corporate management. Because of that, Mugno is expected to take a more hands-on approach to running the agency.

Mugno also has an interest in the behavioral side of safety, such as how to get worker buy-in on safety programs, that could make for an interesting time at the agency,

Many have theorized OSHA under the Trump administration will shift its emphasis from enforcement to compliance assistance. Even though Mugno might favor that course of action, others say, he’ll find it difficult to staff compliance-assistance programs under current budget constraints.

Jordan Barab, who was deputy assistant secretary of labor at OSHA from 2009 to 2017, said one question will be whether Mugno would grow the agency’s Voluntary Protection Program to the point of stressing the rest of the agency’s budget. The program gives recognition to workplaces with exemplary safety records and also exempts them from some inspections, Barab said on in his Confined Space blog.

Another question is what position Mugno would take on OSHA regulations.

“One thing that Republicans hate — and especially this administration — is OSHA standards,” Barab said. “Will Mugno push the agency forward on important new and updated protections despite the anti-regulatory philosophy of the Trump administration?"

Mugno has chaired an OSHA subcommittee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Labor Relations Committee. An agenda for a May 2017 meeting of the subcommittee includes a report from Mugno on National Academy of Sciences committee project for developing a smarter national surveillance system for occupational safety and health.

The committee also was scheduled to discuss recommendations for the new OSHA assistant secretary, who had not yet been named, “beyond just undoing various Obama administration actions and regulations,” according to the agenda. Questions included: What actions would the subcommittee like to see OSHA pursue? What would responsible enforcement mean? What kind of compliance assistance would be helpful?

Randy Johnson, the U.S. Chamber’s senior vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits, on Monday called Mugno an “outstanding nominee” for the position.

“Scott’s extensive history of working with a wide variety of stakeholders including OSHA, organized labor and academic researchers gives him a unique level of credibility for leading this important agency,” Johnson said in a statement.

Mugno has been an active member of the American Trucking Association, which expressed enthusiasm about his nomination. ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Spear called Mugno “a strong and committed voice for safety and responsibility.”

Mugno also chairs the American Transportation Research Institute’s Research Advisory Committee. The committee each year recommends a research agenda to the institute.

Mugno has spent his career working for big business, so it will be interesting to see how he plans to stand up for workers and continue OSHA’s active role in deterring corporations from endangering workers’ health and safety. Will Mugno rein in the over-aggressive enforcement effort mounted during the Obama years? Data suggests that OSHA will conduct as many inspections this year as it did last year. So even if Mugno wanted to turn more to compliance assistance, he may find it difficult to do so. Only time will tell however first needs to be approved by the Senate.

This article was researched and written by John Karis, JD. You can reach John 24/7/365 for questions about OSHA, general liability, employment law and workers’ compensation at jkaris@keefe-law.com.