TMA former chairman speaks out on Illinois’ one-sided workers comp policy

Wade Keats of Keats Manufacturing

In mid-July 2022, two leaders within the Technology & Manufacturing Association shared with the public their concerns about Illinois public policy that is detrimental to their businesses. One opinion piece was written by Nicole Wolter, President, and CEO of HM Manufacturing in Waukegan, Illinois. (available HERE) 

Under the title, “Workers’ comp system adds to business woes,” TMA Past Chairman Wade Keats, of Keats Manufacturing in Wheeling, shared in the suburban Daily Herald his concern about how Illinois businesses are suffering due to yet another dramatic and expensive change in Workers Compensation policy in Illinois.

Keats wrote:

Businesses are struggling through economic hardship due to inflation, supply chain constraints and a labor shortage, but Illinois lawmakers have made life even worse for employers— and employees— in the Prairie State.

Last year, politicians increased taxes on companies for the third straight year by $655 million and told us we weren’t eligible for relief due to losses brought on by COVID-19 lockdowns and other restrictions.

We are also aggressively competing for the nation’s most anti-businesses legal system, jumping three spots in this year’s “Judicial Hellholes” rankings. This is due in large part to Senate Bill 72, making Illinois the most expensive state in America to be sued as an employer.

SB 72 gives trial lawyers more tools to force businesses into hefty settlements. Even with the facts on a business’s side, the possibility of an expensive loss just isn’t worth it for many mom-and-pop small businesses, even when a case has no merit.

To stack on even more costs, our workers’ compensation laws are completely backward. Lawmakers have made it impossible for employers to work with aggrieved employees to achieve mutually beneficial solutions. Instead, every case goes to court, where both parties pay more and settlements are smaller and less personal.

As an Illinois business owner, it sickens me to consider laying off employees or raising prices to account for the inevitability of higher taxes and legal expenses. From higher taxes to increasing legal costs, this path is unsustainable.

Just ask Caterpillar. After a century headquartered in Illinois,things were too tough even for a major Fortune 500 company to remain. Of course, most businesses don’t have the resources required to relocate like that. Instead, jobs are lost, prices skyrocket and many businesses are forced to close.

The cost of doing business in Illinois is too high.

Wade Keats is President and CEO of Keats Manufacturing in Wheeling, Illinois.