Author: John B. Boyd

Your safety net is at risk

In one of the most comprehensive and illuminating writings tracing the struggle for protecting workers from the losses caused by occupational injury, Professor Emily Speiler’s recent work is epic. See it here:

The importance of mentioning this today? Efforts assailing access to a traditional safety net program–and once inside the program, restricted coverage–are continuous. The next wave of changes adverse to the injured and their families could be to carve out classes of employment, required mandatory arbitration, and elimination of programs to employer controlled, opt out of state systems.

Labor organizations and lawyers actively protecting your rights through state organizations (KTLA, MATA) and national organizations (WILG) stand at the door, often as the only ones looking out for our vulnerable injured and disabled. Our lawyers are active participants in each of those organizations, helped form WILG, and two have served as president. Others have or are serving as officers and directors of MATA.

The choice of a lawyer is an important one, as you may see from time to time in television lawyer ads. That decision should not be influenced by the glitz or glamour of them. We believe it is every bit as important to ask any attorney–“What is it that you have done in your career in service to those who aren’t paying you and who will never know your name? What have you accomplished in preserving the rights of the injured, in contributing to positive change through litigation and political effort, and in being on the front lines of those efforts to protect those who bear the costs of injury and death?”

Professor Speiler’s article illustrates how the struggle evolved between adequacy of protection and benefit, to a focus on cost containment. The shift of focus from that on the worker and family, to employer profits and costs is part of the experience. Where are we headed next? She offers up several thoughts. Be vigilant. At every corner, it’s easy to see the dismantlement of consumer protections and civil rights. What is happening at a national level is and has been happening in Kansas and Missouri. We see a spiraling race to the bottom, and who will carry the burden? Everyone who goes to work, never expecting to be hurt, get sick, or die.

A Veterans’ Day Message from John B. Boyd

Thinking about Veterans’ Day and how I feel about it caused me to remember some Vets in particular, each of whom is a hero to me.

First up is my friend Ron Stites, who as a member of the 101st Airborne, served in Vietnam. He was exposed to Agent Orange, and later in life had a lung transplant and severe heart damage. Ron passed away silently within the past two years. One of the finest trial lawyers I know, Ron was an early champion of women’s equality before it was openly discussed much less promoted. He is why I became active in our state trial lawyers association. There, I met the finest champions of justice, who like Ron, sought to protect the rights of citizens to a fair day in court. A great outdoors man, we fished and sometimes, hunted together. The demons of war caused him to suffer from PTSD, yet he kept that part of his life quiet to many.

My brother in law, Harold Straka, served as a Military Police officer in Vietnam. His luck held out for he had a temporary-duty assignment to transport prisoners to Ft. Leavenworth about the time that his first child was born. His good fortune stayed with him throughout his service as he avoided being wounded despite the risks of war. In his civilian life, he became a senior partner with what is now  PriceWaterhouseCoopers, retired to Florida, and became as diametrically opposite me as can be  imagined when it comes to politics. We still fish and play golf, while routinely jabbing each other with the needle about the politics du jour. He is my brother from another mother.

Jim Ellenberger, a graduate of OCS, served as an officer in Vietnam. He rarely ever spoke about his experiences to me. A private man, he stands as a giant in my eyes. Jim’s career was devoted to public service. As a safety and health expert with the national AFL-CIO, he worked with labor and management organizations to reduce the risks of injury and the losses sustained by families when a member was injured at work. He held public office in Virginia, and was a founding member of a non-partisan national organization, to which national elected officials look for advice, on matters of social insurance–Medicare, Social Security, Unemployment, and Workers’ Compensation. Stepping out of character, Jim co-authored a spy mystery with two of his closest friends, which I hope becomes a national best seller and Matt Damon stars in the movie some day.

The fourth is a former client, whose name I won’t share. He was a decorated veteran of Vietnam, wounded in separate firefights three times. I tried a case for him some years ago, where his PTSD from Vietnam was significantly aggravated by his job as a firefighter. After witnessing a particularly gruesome death, the stress caused him to tell his Chief he couldn’t work anymore. A firefighter for 30 years, he was rejected for a duty related retirement, rejected for worker’s compensation coverage, and left without hope. He was one of the soldiers who was spat upon when coming home through San Francisco. He felt like his community did the same when it wouldn’t support his cry for help. While he was ultimately successful through the courts, it cost him marriages, damaged his relationships, and but for a terrific counselor at the VA, he would not be alive today.

My Uncle, Charles Lynn, served in the Air Force and was a Korean War Veteran. Charlie raised three boys whom he taught to be men of character. He never missed a chance to go fishing with family, including his brothers-in-law, my Dad and Porter. His life after service was one of peaceful grace. He always had a smile, a laugh, and made me feel important whenever I saw him. Like many veterans, he chose not to speak about his personal experiences from war. He was a solid example of a life well lived, respectful of his God, a loving husband and father who led by example.

Another friend that I thought about on this day, set aside to honor those who served, is John Schiefelbein. John’s Vietnam era service still has missions which have not been declassified. A fixed wing pilot, he flew RP-2E Neptune aircraft of the 156th Army Security Agency Aviation Company. His civilian life has gravitated from being a pilot with Braniff Airlines to his current love as a wilderness outfitter for those who enjoy primitive camping and canoeing in the BWCA and Canada. John has over 30 years in that job, and countless Boy Scouts, families, Astronauts, and military brass have enjoyed his desire to make their trips memorable. But John’s service to those in need has seen him spend weeks in hurricane damages areas of our nation on numerous occasions. He doesn’t do that for acclaim, but his sense of duty to his fellow man exemplifies what is so worthy of emulation.

My friend, Sharon Martin, is a fire truck driver, and, a Colonel in the Army National Guard. She  has been cleared by Congress to become a Brigadier General. Sharon’s been deployed in the Middle East war zones and was in command of the Missouri national guard MP’s when they were called to action in Ferguson, Missouri. Quiet, unassuming, and always serving the community, state and nation, Sharon’s devotion is remarkable.

Bill Clinton – not that one – “Top” to his friends, is a Marine Corp Master Sargent retiree, saw action in Vietnam, and served his country honorably for a career. I got to know him through his tireless efforts with the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. Together with my other brother-in-law, Bill Straka, we joined with Top to raise scholarship monies for use by the children of Marines and Fleet Marine Force Navy Medics who are KIA. Top has spent another twenty-five years of service to Toys For Tots as well as just about any charity besides the MCSF, yet again demonstrating the desire to serve doesn’t end with separation from active duty.

My Dad, George A. Boyd, was a WWII veteran who entered France at Omaha Beach. I think about him every day, but thought about him differently today as he was an older soldier than the 17-18 year olds he served with then, for he was 31 when he enlisted. As an “old” man, he was looked up to by these boys, and Dad received a field promotion to Corporal as units were put together on that beach as they fought inland. One of the very few stories he ever told me about his service was how that promotion was for a day or two. When I looked at his DD-214, I asked him “Were you busted?”. His reply was simple: “The rigors of command were too much for me.” Dad returned home from the war with the residuals of his feet damaged by trenchfoot and severe cold. He took me to my first union meeting, as he was an officer in an IBEW local. I was about 7 or 8 years old. He instilled in me the values of brotherhood, and first taught me that an injury to one is an injury to all.

Each of these men and women are everyday heroes to me. They helped shape me and those around me in so many ways. I’m grateful for their service, for what they continued to do in their lives, and for the memories which they have left me.

An Article By John B. Boyd

“Union bosses…”. Representative Holly Rehder uses that phrase in her attempt to denigrate over 310,000 Missourians whose efforts to repudiate once and for all the misnamed Right to Work law through the initiative referendum process.  These citizens recognize  that out of state influence and greedy billionaires and their “pay to play” money buy the allegiance of Rehder, Governor Greitens, and their ilk, who collectively aspire to line the pockets of their most wealthy donors.

Rehder , Greitens and their minions prefer cutting wages, eliminating pensions, and doing away with rudimentary workplace protections to “attract business.”  Why hasn’t Kansas, Arkansas, and Tennessee prospered?  Do they want our state to be like Alabama or Mississippi?


To apply Rehder’s and Greiten’s logic, my business should be able to take the benefits from a membership in the Chamber of Commerce but not pay for the services it provides its members.  Someday when I need a new roof, I may want Tamko products overhead, but I shouldn’t have to pay for their shingles.  (I wouldn’t really want their product even if free, but you understand the point.)


Employers enter into contracts with labor unions.  The union must represent everyone in the bargaining unit.  Those members wouldn’t pay for the representation if Rehder, Greitens and their disciples have their way.  That representation has secured Improved wages, health insurance, a pension, training and safety.  If a member is unjustly terminated, the union pursues a process for resolution.


I suppose it is ok for businesses to collectively belong to associations to advance their agendas, but dare those associations exist without payment for their services by the very businesses who derive benefit?
Big Money buys influence, and we Missourians say to Rehder, Governor Greitens, and their minions who are responsible for “right to work” legislation and who continue to hide their biggest donors :  “SHOW ME THE MONEY”  Let Missourians see who is financing your campaign to lower wages and take away the ability of labor organizations to exist.  Who are your bosses?

Letter to the Kansas City Star Editor

This letter to the editor from John B. Boyd appears in the Kansas City Star.

Right to work

When Missouri’s legislature passed a bill with the false slogan “right to work,” it was not representing the interests of working Missourians. It attacks everyone with one purpose: destroy your chances to achieve success. It limits your civil rights and destroys the freedoms of association that have resulted in improved safety and training, reasonable working conditions and fair pay without regard to sex or ethnicity.

Concerned citizens, community leaders and businesses are standing up to this punitive law. Signatures are being gathered on an initiative petition, which would allow registered voters to decide the future of our state. Will we be allowed to reject a law that attacks the civil rights of all?

You, your family and your friends can participate in the process to secure a citizens vote throughout Kansas City and Missouri. Call a union office, your church or your state representative’s or senator’s office for directions.

Should the wealthiest control your ability to provide improved opportunities for your family? When was the last time a millionaire looked out for your best interests?

John Boyd

Lee’s Summit