Sam Gold passed away recently, losing a battle with lymphoma.
His name will not be familiar to many of this blog’s readers, but his passing merits mention and a tribute.
Sam was a sheetmetal union member who eventually sustained a career-ending work injury. For years he was represented by Frank Russo, now one of my colleagues at Boxer & Gerson LLP.
Sam was disillusioned with the system, and wasn’t afraid to speak out and fight back.
He became a workers’ comp activist.
Using several public access TV studios in San Francisco and Vallejo, Sam produced “On the Job TV” and the “Injured Workers’ Television Network.” These were mostly talk-format episodes featuring injured workers and some lawyers talking about problems with the California system. Some can still be found online with an internet search.
He also ran an organization (and website) for injured workers called the National Organization of Injured Workers (NOIW.org).
It’s not easy for a busy workers’ comp lawyer to find time for media involvement, but after I began this blog I was definitely on Sam’s radar.
Sam became the producer and director of a video series on workers’ comp that featured talk-show commentary by me and prominent defense attorney Richard “Jake” Jacobsmeyer. We called it “The Comp Guys” and tackled various hot topics in the California comp system.
Sam had purchased a bunch of video production equipment with some of his comp case settlement funds. With increasing scheduling and logistical issues, we let the series go after several years.
But Sam’s drive to find a way to participate in efforts to make the California comp system better was indefatigable. He was generous with his time and sincere in his idealism.
As recently as a year ago he was still pushing to resume some sort of internet-based video series, believing workers needed to rally to lobby for an improved system.
Though he was obviously not physically well at the time, he came to my conference room and cheerfully pitched his dream for videos that would address imbalance in the system.
Sam respected the role of applicant workers’ comp attorneys, though he always felt that California Applicants' Attorneys Association failed to make its case successfully.
Sam had a darker vision of insurers and employers than I have had. In fact, I didn’t agree with many of the policy prescriptions and opinions Sam had about the system. But I always realized that his view was forged by his personal experiences and those of some of the very disgruntled workers who gravitated to his media efforts.
Here is Sam’s essential credo, taken (verbatim) off the NOIW.org website:
“Workers Compensation is not about Truth, Justice, Fairness, Equity or even Honesty! It’s about insurance companies who will stoop to any level to minimize their liabilities in their open cases which they will try to close at any cost! In their eyes, injured workers are black holes that suck in their profit dollars!
Attorneys around America who specialize in Workers Compensation have their hands tied by legislation that is bought and paid for with insurance industry money, as insurance companies after all, are the largest manipulators of legislative bodies in the United States.”
Sam believed that injured workers needed to step up their involvement in the political process.
Forging a band of injured workers into a sustained and potent political force is something that has eluded the attempts of groups such as Voters Injured at Work (VIAW) and Sam’s group.
But I always had great admiration for Sam’s efforts. He was an old-school, idealistic guy.
I’m sad to see him go.
Julius Young is a claimants' attorney for the Boxer & Gerson law firm in Oakland, California. This column was reprinted with his permission from his blog, www.workerscompzone.com.
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