A Step Along the Way for Workers' Compensation

By Kristen Gold

My first few weeks at MassCOSH have been a whirlwind to say the least. From day one, we (Mia and I) dove right in to the report on workers’ compensation, our assignment this summer. In the past few weeks, I have ate, slept and breathed workers’ compensation. I have now found myself riled up about the injustices inherent in the system. A system once created as a mutual agreement between workers and their employers has, in the last 20 years, changed into yet another way the powerful subject the weak. And I, fully equipped with my unwavering and unquenchable sense of justice, am ready to fight for change!

Although I am not out scheduling actions, running a campaign, or giving testimony at the state house—and I am in fact sitting at a desk most days, Google searching "workers’ compensation"—I feel very strongly that the work I do this summer will help MassCOSH and others make changes in the workers’ compensation system.

Our report will be comprehensive. It will give a voice to workers who are so often ignored and manipulated through the testimonies we include. It will give workers’ compensation attorneys, those who arguably know the system best, an opportunity to suggest the changes that they see necessary. We have been speaking with national workers’ compensation experts and comparing the systems in other states with ours here in Massachusetts. I am confident that these faults in the system can be rectified. It won’t happen this summer, but I think this is the first step. I think I am taking part in something great.

Although we have hit the ground running here in Dorchester, Mass., I know that eight weeks is a very short time. I know that although I will finish this report, there will be years more of work to be done before real, lasting changes can be made. I can see the mountain standing in front of the MassCOSH staff and I. To overcome the mountainous power of the insurance companies and large corporations with the voices of workers will surely take more than just a couple pieces of paper. But as Archbishop Oscar Romero said in his prayer, A Step Along the Way:

…This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water the seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.