When asked several years ago why Maine, one of the northernmost states in the continental US would join SAWCA, the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators, Executive Director Gary Davis simply smiled. He replied with a typical Dixie drawl and a knowing nod of the head, saying, “Because Southern is a state of mind.” And so it would be that states like Colorado and Maine would find themselves firmly ensconced in membership activities of this growing regulators body, despite their geographical presence being anywhere but south. 

This past week, the trend continued, with northern stalwart Wisconsin being added to the SAWCA roles. Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Worker’s Compensation Division Administrator, Frank Lasee, made it official with their attendance at this year’s Annual SAWCA Convention, held in Middleburg, VA.  It highlights the attraction and increasing influence of this 70-year-old institution.

So, with the presence of other regulator focused organizations available, what is the attraction of SAWCA?

The possible answers I provide are drawn in part from speculation, observation and conversation. That’s a fancy way of saying, “Heck if I know, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway.” (In this list I make several comparisons to a competing regulators organization, the IAIABC. They are both fine organizations and I happily work with each of them. I do not mean to imply here that one is better than the other, but they are different. I make this notation so as to prevent the management of IAIABC from having the hotel short-sheet my bed at their upcoming October Conference, which coincidentally, you can register for here.)

  • Reason 1, Financial: Cost for SAWCA membership is very low compared to other similar organizations I am aware of.
  • Reason 2, They have a better acronym: “SAWCA” is very easy to pronounce (saw-cah). The other primary regulators body, the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions, has the unfortunate moniker of IAIABC, which is virtually unpronounceable as a word. It is frankly difficult to say letter by letter, and after 3 drinks at a reception most people uttering it sound as though they’ve had a stroke. Go ahead, have three beers and say I-A-I-A-B-C three times fast. I dare you.
  • Reason 3, No International Concerns: They only must concern themselves with domestic policies and issues. IAIABC generally takes a broader view of occupational issues and incorporates standards and policies that take into consideration their international members. SAWCA members must only deal with US proclivities, which is fine, since, damnit, we’re Americans and we just know better, anyway.
  • Reason 4, No EDI: Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards are the domain of the IAIABC, and SAWCA attendees and participants can be blissfully ignorant of the technobabble required to understand it.
  • Reason 5, Southern hospitality: For this I borrow from a description I use for my friends at the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network (NWCDN). I often compare their gatherings to those of the American Bar Association; the ABA has a distinct collegial feel, while the NWCDN has more of a fraternal flavor. The same distinction can be made here. While the IAIABC is a friendly organization, it has a slightly more corporate feel. You could view them as collegial, while SAWCA would be fraternal (note I did not say frat boy. Big difference).
  • Reason 6, Better breakfast: While IAIABC seems committed to my health with 6AM Yoga classes and fresh fruit for breakfast, SAWCA understands that better living really comes through bacon and piles of sausage gravy. Enough said.

SAWCA definitely seems to be on a tear at the moment. If they keep adding northern jurisdictions, their influence in policy development will surely continue to grow. If they’re not careful, they’ll soon find themselves “sutherizing” Canadian jurisdictions, which would not be a bad thing.

We’ll just have to figure out how to work “y’all” and “eh” into the same sentences.


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