TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Senate President Steve Sweeney that would extend unemployment insurance benefits to workers on strike during a labor dispute cleared the Senate Labor Committee today.
“Every worker deserves fair compensation and to be treated with dignity. When a breakdown in contract negotiations happens and workers are left with no choice but to go on strike, there should be some protections in place to provide sustenance for the workers and their families,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This bill would provide that security while negotiations continue.”
“When hardworking New Jerseyans are trying to earn an honest living but can’t because of unfair compensation, it adds insult to injury to leave them flat with no income at all because they are finally standing up for justice,” said Senator Sweeney. “This will bring some balance to the equation going forward.”
Under the bill, S-2160, unemployment benefits could be triggered for striking workers through several pathways. They would be immediately available if the labor dispute is caused by the failure or refusal of the employer to comply with an agreement or contract between the employer and the claimant. This would apply to claims for a period of unemployment commencing on or after April 10, 2016.
Additionally, if the unemployment is caused by a labor dispute, including a strike or other concerted employee activities, but not by a lockout or a labor dispute caused by the employer’s non-compliance to an agreement or contract with the claimant, benefits would be denied only during the first 30 days following the commencement of a labor dispute, allowing time for negotiation and resolution. An exception to the 30-day waiting period would apply if the employer hires a permanent replacement for the claimant’s position.
“Hardworking citizens, like those at Verizon, who are fighting for fair labor treatment shouldn’t be punished,” said Senator Vitale. “They deserve fairness, respect and dignity in return for their service.”
The bill is modeled after similar laws in New York and in Alaska. It cleared the Senate Labor Committee by a vote of 3-1, and now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.