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Published: Wednesday, 3/13/2002

Lobbyist, in speech in Toledo, hails revived business activism

The top lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers, speaking in Toledo yesterday, hailed renewed business activism which he said defeated proposed ergonomics standards and is needed now to beat back patients' rights legislation.

“If you get involved, it will make a difference,” Patrick Cleary told 120 human resources executives at a seminar on workplace law sponsored by Toledo's nonprofit Employers' Association.

Mr. Cleary, in the speech at the Radisson Hotel, urged participants to write to their congressional representatives expressing opposition to the measure, which he said would further drive up skyrocketing company health care costs by opening the way for workers to sue employers if they believed they were unfairly denied treatment.

He dismissed contentions by supporters of the legislation that businesses would be immune from lawsuits.

Mr. Cleary conceded that language is contradictory in competing bills passed by the House and Senate, but said sponsoring businesses almost certainly would get sucked into suits along with managed-care programs and other health care plans.

He disputed contentions by labor unions and other supporters that the defeated ergonomics standards would merely have provided reasonable protection for workers from repetitive stress disorder.

Mr. Cleary contended that they would have encouraged the filing of claims by providing greater benefits than for other workplace injuries and by paying for injuries suffered off the job that that were aggravated by the person's work.

Business interests managed to overturn the standards in the eleventh hour through a grassroots campaign, he said.

By bombarding representatives with calls and letters, opponents persuaded Congress to invoke the Congressional Review Act to kill the measure, he added.

“We rolled them over,” Mr. Cleary said of unions. “We completely crushed them.”

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