In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon established a national commission to review the state of workers’ compensation programs across the nation. The commission, chaired by Professor John F. Burton, Jr., delivered their “Report Of The National Commission Of State Workmen’s Compensation Laws” to the President and Congress on July 31, 1972. It made 84 recommendations for the industry, 19 of them deemed essential. 

There have been few if any moments that left a more definable mark on the workers’ compensation industry. Even today, the “Burton Commission report,” as it has come to be commonly called, is used in comparative discussions about the state of workers’ compensation systems as they currently exist. To recognize and celebrate this seminal moment in the industry, the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers has teamed with several organizations and noted scholars to produce a series of events and videos honoring the work that was done.

The committee is comprised of Prof. John F. Burton Jr., Prof. Les Boden, Prof. Michael Duff,  James M. Gallen, Hon. Christopher Godfrey, Alan S. Pierce, Glenn Shor, Prof. Emily Spieler, David Torrey, Elaine Weiss, and Jennifer Wolf.

They are also seeking to coordinate with others who wish to mark the 50th anniversary of the report.

Below is a reprint of a letter from Planning Committee Chair James Gallen, outlining the scheduled events for the year. Anyone wishing to coordinate ideas and events with the committee is encouraged to reach out to them.

On July 31, 1972, roughly fifty years after the first state workers’ compensation laws were passed, the National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws delivered its report to President Nixon and Congress. The report outlined 84 recommendations, 19 of which were deemed “essential.” The reforms adopted in response to the National Commission’s recommendations have formed the basic structure of modern workers’ compensation acts.

To commemorate this milestone in the development of Workers’ Compensation in the United States, the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers has established a planning committee to educate compensation professionals as to the state of workers’ compensation before the formation of the Commission; the efforts to reach consensus among the diverse members of the Commission;  and the immediate, midterm, and long-term effects of the Recommendations as adopted by the various state and federal jurisdictions. The committee also views this anniversary as a prime opportunity for all stakeholders involved in various aspects of this unique area of the law to re-examine how further change may be necessary to accomplish the Commission’s goals of providing an adequate, affordable, prompt and equitable system of compensation.

Composed of representatives of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, (CWCL) the ABA, The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC), WILG, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs at the U.S. Department of Labor (OWCP), California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA) and a collection of distinguished scholars, the Planning Committee is fortunate to have the active participation of Prof. John F. Burton Jr. who served as chairman of the National Commission.

Steps are being taken to record a series of interviews that will preserve the history of the Commission and will be available to interested parties. The National Commission will be a topic featured at the annual NASI Membership Meeting on January 13, 2022, the ABA TTIPS Mid-Winter Seminar in New Orleans on March 4-5, 2022 and at the Installation Dinner of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers the evening of March 5. The National Commission and its aftermath will also be explored at the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Agency Conference and at the Pennsylvania State Bar Association CLE, both in 2022.  The planning committee is currently exploring opportunities with academic institutions and local bar associations. We look forward to cooperating with other organizations in the field desiring to note the anniversary of their own programs. Anyone desiring to coordinate their commemorations with the planning committee, please contact a member of the committee:

James M. Gallen,
Committee Chair


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