Farmers are threatened

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Workers’ comp: Do you want it or not?

By Merilee Dannemann

New legal developments related to the workers’ compensation system are affecting two important New Mexico industries – in precisely opposite ways, for precisely opposite reasons.
Before this discussion continues, let me jump ahead to a conclusion, lest the reader assume I am a heartless, anti-worker lackey of management.
In America, people who get hurt at work should be well and compassionately taken care of, without anybody needing to sue anybody.
The question is whether workers’ compensation is the right delivery system.
Some farm workers want coverage.
An advocacy group, the Center on Law and Poverty, is determined to get rid of the exemption for farm and ranch workers (prior case law has already changed the meaning of this language, so some farms and ranches are already required to be covered, and this is a great cause of confusion.)
After several failed attempts at legislation, this group went to the courts. A case based on three injured dairy workers was heard at District Court in Albuquerque in 2011.
The judge ruled in November in their favor.
Before reading the decision I would have said this case will undoubtedly be appealed, but now I’m not sure. The defendant was not the industry but the state, represented by the attorney general, and the judicial decision was strange.

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