L.A. Chamber Pushes for Workers’ Comp Reform

Times Staff Writer

A minor player in shaping public policy in the last decade, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce has launched an aggressive letter-writing campaign to urge state lawmakers to reform skyrocketing workers’ compensation costs.

The chamber’s lobbying effort to address one of the hottest issues in Sacramento signals a resurgence of the 114-year-old group whose influence had eroded as membership wavered, the ethnic makeup of the business community changed and other similar organizations cropped up.

“The chamber in recent years has come back to life,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “It’s a welcome development because their role traditionally has been one of advocacy.”


Rusty Hammer, the chamber’s president and chief executive since 2001, acknowledged that the group had not been a strong voice for the business community in recent years. “Our efforts to revitalize the chamber and restore the business voice is what this campaign is all about,” he said.

Through the creation of a Web site -- www.fixworkers -- businesses can sign a letter addressed to Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi asking him to “make workers’ comp more affordable so that we can continue to do business in California.”

Chamber officials are asking businesses to also include personal stories of hardships. The goal is to collect at least 1,000 letters, and hand them to Garamendi, who is scheduled to attend a chamber board meeting Thursday. So far 150 have been submitted.

The group also plans to form a task force that will review policy proposals and make recommendations to slash insurance premiums.

By law, California employers must buy workers’ compensation insurance, but policies are becoming increasingly costly.

Last month, State Compensation Insurance Fund officials told lawmakers that overall, workers’ compensation insurance rates are likely to increase 18% between now and January.