A controversial workers’ compensation bill proposed by the Saints continues to work its way through the Louisiana legislature.
Already passed by the House of Representatives, the bill passed the Senate labor committee Thursday on a vote of 4-3. It now will progress to the full Senate for a vote.
The dispute centers on the formula for calculating workers’ compensation benefits for players injured during offseason or training camp practices, when they’re not earning their full salary. The Saints’ bill would focus on the earnings at the time of the injury; the players want the benefits to be based on a 52-week average.
The battle, as Saints outside lawyer Chris Kane recently explained it to PFT, first arose 14 years ago in the court system. The Saints’ position regarding out-of-season injuries primarily had prevailed via litigation, and the bill was introduced this year after several attempts by a employee lawyer to pass a bill that would codify the players’ preferred formula.
“[I]t’s the CBA all over again, in regards to just [the fact that] there’s issues that are always management and NFL versus the Players Association and players,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees recently said, via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. “I can tell you one thing, one thing that’s non-negotiable is workers compensation and player health and safety. Listen, we know we put ourselves at great risk every time we step on the field, every time we step on the practice field and in the weight room and when we train. And we know that’s the nature of the game. But we also pay for our own workers comp insurance so that guys are taken care of when they do get hurt. And it’s not if they get hurt, it’s when they get hurt.”
NFLPA president Eric Winston explained in a recent visit to PFT Live that discussions have occurred in the past regarding a workers’ compensation system that wouldn’t depend on the specific laws of the various states that host NFL teams. This would avoid the possibility for skirmishes in one or more states regarding whether and to what extent benefits will be available.
The skirmish is a reality in Louisiana, and it’s undermining to some extent the relationship between the NFL and the NFLPA. Ultimately, the best solution would be one that is negotiated by the two sides.