Four members of Gov. Norm Bangerter's workers' compensation task force resigned in protest Wednesday, saying they were betrayed by the administration.
The four, including state AFL-CIO President Ed Mayne and Republican attorney Virginius Dabney, a member of the Governor's Club, said they quit to protest a decision by the Legislature to put a $3,000 limit on benefits to train and rehabilitate injured workers.Lawmakers made the change suddenly at the end of a special session in July after business leaders, led by large self-insured companies, lobbied the governor, Mayne said.
He said the task force met with Bangerter's aides during the session in an unsuccessful effort to persuade them to support the task force.
"We felt we had an injustice done to us," Mayne said.
Officials in Bangerter's office had no immediate comment Wednesday.
The resignations came less than three months after state Sen. Kay S. Cornaby, R-Salt Lake, resigned as chairman of the committee, which was formed in May to negotiate a law that would satisfy labor and management interests.
Cornaby said he served only to accommodate labor and management. When management interests made an "end run" to the Legislature during the special session, Cornaby decided "it is not worth my time and trouble to serve."
Mayne said thousands of injured workers will have little choice but to live on state welfare benefits because of the new law.
"We don't believe people want to go on welfare," he said.
Injured workers require an average of $10,000 to $15,000 to rehabilitate to the point where they can return to work and be productive, Mayne said.
The law affects about 800,000 Utah workers, he said. About 62,000 of those are injured in some way on the job each year.
The committee held only one meeting during its five-month existence. After Cornaby resigned, no new chairman was appointed.
The four, which also include attorneys Roger Sandack and Tim Houpt, said they would stay together and form a coalition to lobby for a repeal of the $3,000 limit.
"Quite frankly, we feel that the injured worker has been deserted, and that our further participation on this committee would serve no meaningful purpose," they said in their letter of resignation.
Mayne said the group wanted to refrain from making the issue a political one, noting that two of the five who resigned are Republicans.