Worker’s Compensation, A Pirates Idea?

This year marks the 100th birthday of Workers’ Compensation in the United States. Oddly enough, workers compensation was not always around. There was a time when a loyal employee would occasionally lose a finger, or an eye, possibly a limb, and maybe their life on one of those bad days at the office. After one of these incidents, they were expected to rub some dirt in it and get back to work. Time was money and unless an employee could prove that their injuries were due to employer negligence, they had no choice but to keep working.

                Eventually employees decided that it was the employers who needed them and they wanted some insurance when they were injured on the job. Although few people would have guessed that these employees who started the idea were pirates. Those hook hands, eye patches, and peg legs didn’t just magically fall from the sky. They were bought with money, or at least the materials to make them were. Also they had to pay a doctor for their services in another way than the honest word of a pirate.

                Before they were hunted down and considered criminals. Pirates were admired for being highly organized and entrepreneurial, even seen as great allies. Governments, political leaders, and large business owners would hire pirates in the 18th-19th century to go and relieve other countries or businesses of their, “booty”. As you can imagine, having ones belongings stolen by pirates is not something every person just tolerates, and let happen easily. This little conflict of interests would leave many pirates a little worse for wear, thus giving pirates this revolutionary idea of having their employers pay for damages to the crew. For example, losing an eye or finger would get a pirate about 100 pieces of eight (Spanish dollar); a limb might get in the area of 400 to 600 pieces of eight. Which at the time the money must have been nice to have, but when the treasure chest started looking a bit empty, that eye or finger or leg must have felt a little more missed.

           Presently there are laws put in place to protect the wellbeing of the average working member of society. Worker’s compensation has made standards in the quality in the work place as well as treatment for work related injuries increase significantly since the 18th and 19th century. It also doesn’t hurt that peg legs and hook hands have gone out of style. Now it never seems like a bad idea to be on the safe side and it is always hard to tell how far that compensation goes. Looking into quality health insurance is always a good decision, “Garrr!”

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