How Unions Impact Workers’ Compensation Claims

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Unions and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Claims

The National Labor Union was created in 1866.; its purpose was initially intended to get Congress to shorten the workday for federal employees to eight hours. In the US, the first active nationwide labor organization was the Knights of Labor, in 1869, which began to grow after 1880.

Labor unions were created to help workers with work-related issues, such as unsafe working conditions, low pay, unsanitary work areas, long hours, etc.


Labor unions were very instrumental in bringing about changes to the workers’ compensation laws. Through collective bargaining, unions are successful in lowering employee insurance costs, advocating for safety improvements, and enacting labor agreements that guarantee employees their jobs during recovery from an injury or illness. As a result, non-union shops have adopted the same principles to prevent their good employees from leaving for better benefits.

While these efforts have met with remarkable success, union employees may find that there are different requirements when applying for workers’ compensation benefits.


In some states, union employees have more rights and protections than non-union employees. However, non-union and union employees are equally entitled to workers’ comp benefits for occupational illnesses and job-related injuries. Union jobs are subject to collective bargaining agreements; workers’ compensation claims and benefits may be approached differently.

The bargaining agreement serves as a labor contract; the employer sets employees’ duties and rights relating to workers’ comp benefits. In most organizations, workers’ compensation rules and special collective bargaining agreement provisions align with state laws but may differ in some cases.

If you are employed in a union job, it is best to know if special rules apply before filing. This information can be found in the collective bargaining contract that will require your careful review to understand your responsibilities and rights. However, interpreting the agreement can get tediously complicated; you may need the help of an attorney. Not understanding the process is an obstacle to claiming benefits

This is where the representation by the skilled attorneys of Patterson Dahlberg, Personal injury Attorneys will help you discover your rights and entitlements as an injured union or non-union employee.

At the Law Offices of Patterson Dahlberg, our Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation lawyers can work on the best course of action to maximize your benefits after a workplace accident.


Unions handle the administration of the welfare fund that was set up as part of the contract negotiations; employers contribute to these welfare funds, and the union pays out the benefits to injured employees. Employees may collect these funds for other reasons as well:  healthcare, dental work, disability, work-related injuries, paid leave, and life insurance. Some unions maintain separate funds specifically for work-related injuries.

Through collective bargaining, unions negotiate wages, working conditions, and benefits. However, as part of the negotiations, specific options might be forfeited, such as restricting which medical providers injured employees may see or prevent you from seeing a doctor of your choice for a second opinion.


Collective bargaining may require the use of alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or binding arbitration, thereby forcing employees to use a process outside the scope of the state Workers’ Compensation Commission. These actions not only favor the employer but also leaves you, the employee, at a significant disadvantage,

If you suffer an illness related to your job duties or are injured on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, whether or not you subscribe to a union.

The employer is ultimately responsible for seeing that workers receive workers’ comp promptly. While it is understandable that employers don’t want to pay high premiums due to the number of reported injuries, some may try to get around reporting these incidents while attempting to convince workers they should take sickness days instead of workers’ compensation. Overall, it is cheaper for the employer.

However, by taking sick days instead of reporting the incident, you are cutting yourself off from future workers’ comp payments if the injury proves to be long-term or recurring. Some employers have gone to extremes by providing rooms where injured workers just sit all day and do nothing when they should be home resting. The doctor’s opinion is the final say as to when an employee may return to work.

Asking injured employees not to report an incident is not the right way to go about lowering the premiums. Adhering to OSHA safety regulations and providing the employees with a safe work environment, and reducing accidents and injuries, is much more effective.

Other employers offer their injured workers “prizes” to not report accidents through games such as “safety bingo”. Prizes get more substantial each day or week that no accidents are reported. Workers are under pressure not to report injuries or accidents.

Some employers even offer injured workers cash outright not to report their accidents.


Employers negotiate the “light duty” policy with the union during the contract negotiations. This helps employers reduce their long-term injury reports. However, let us point out that by returning to work too soon, you run the risk of doing yourself long-term damage.

Your doctor has the final word – you will need to get written authorization and approval on what type of work you can do; the light-duty work should be such that it does not exacerbate the injury. Your doctor may set restrictions you need to adhere to as well as reasonable accommodations with which your employer should attempt to comply.

Most workers cannot afford to stay out of work and on workers comp for extended periods. Receiving only a fraction of your salary does not cover the bills.

Contact Patterson Dahlberg, Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

The attorneys of Patterson Dahlberg in Rochester, Minnesota will work closely with your Union Steward to help you receive benefits you are entitled to –and if there are long-term damages from the injury or illness, you may be entitled to additional compensation under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. We are here to help maximize your benefits.

If you feel that your employer is not reporting your injury or handling your claim properly, contact your Union Steward and call Patterson Dahlberg, Personal Injury Attorneys today for a free consultation--start receiving all your benefits!