By a vote of 49-24, the full Assembly granted final legislative approval to a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Wayne DeAngelo, Thomas Giblin, Daniel R. Benson, Andrew Zwicker, Joe Danielsen, Eric Houghtaling and Shavonda Sumter to extend unemployment benefits to workers on strike for more than 30 days due to unresolved labor disputes.
The measure (A-3819), which now heads to the governor’s desk, would have, for instance, benefited workers in strikes against Verizon and Trump Taj Mahal.
“Going on strike is a measure of last resort, but sometimes it’s necessary for workers who must stand up for their rights,” said Quijano (D-Union). “That’s why we must ensure that workers who have no choice but to go on strike are eligible for unemployment benefits.”
“Without a reasonable safety net, workers are less able to stand up for their rights on the job,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “When workers can speak up for fair treatment and a middle-class standard of living, everyone benefits.”
“When workers’ rights are undermined, employees shouldn’t have to sacrifice their livelihoods to stand up for the justice they deserve,” said Giblin (D-Essex). “This is the right thing to do for workers fighting for their rights.”
“Going on strike is never easy, but it’s sometimes the only choice for workers,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We need to provide a safety net for workers doing what they feel is necessary.”
“We need to do the right thing for workers struggling to make ends meet when they find themselves fighting for jobs and benefits,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Hunterdon/Middlesex). “This is common decency. It’s always right to stand up for workers.”
“Protecting worker rights is something we can all agree upon,” said Danielsen (D-Somerset/Middlesex). “This is the right approach for workers in their time of need.”
“We need to always be aiming to protect worker rights,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “This is a common sense bill aimed at helping workers when they need it most. It’s about fairness.”
“This will give workers the ability to stand up for their rights without having to worry about whether or not they can still support their family, especially during situations where a strike may be unreasonably prolonged by an employer,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic).
The bill provides that, for any claim for a period of unemployment commencing on or after April 10, 2016:
– A claimant is not disqualified because of a labor dispute 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, including a collective bargaining agreement with a union representing the claimant, or a state or federal law pertaining to hours, wages, or other conditions of work; and
– If the unemployment of a claimant 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 non-compliance indicated by the bill, the claimant shall not be provided benefits during the first 30 days following the commencement of the labor dispute, except that the waiting period shall not apply if the employer hires a permanent replacement worker for the claimant’s position. A replacement worker shall be presumed to be permanent unless the employer certifies in writing that the claimant will be permitted to return to his or her prior position upon conclusion of the dispute. If the employer does not permit the return, the claimant shall be entitled to recover any benefits lost as a result of the 30 day waiting period before receiving benefits, and the department may impose a penalty upon the employer of up to $750 per employee per week of benefits lost, to be paid into the unemployment compensation auxiliary fund.