If you lose your job through no fault of your own, taxpayers provide you with a safety net.
It’s called unemployment compensation, and it’s designed to quickly help workers feed their families and keep a roof over their heads when the unexpected happens and they lose their jobs.
But when union workers go out on strike and then lose their jobs because of that action, this is not an unanticipated loss of employment.
It’s a deliberate risk that employees take when they fight for better conditions. And they should not be treated the same as someone who was fired, or laid off because of market conditions, or is out of work because of their company going out of business.
Yet if Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs a piece of legislation passed in May by the Legislature, taxpayers will be subsidizing, and potentially encouraging, people who risk giving up their jobs voluntarily through labor walkouts.
Right now, workers who lose their jobs because of labor disputes are forced to wait seven weeks before becoming eligible for unemployment insurance, plus a one-week unpaid waiting period that applies to all workers.
If signed by the governor, the bill (A6592/S4573) would change the current labor law to allow workers who lose their jobs through a labor dispute to begin collecting unemployment after a week, the same as laid-off workers.
New York already has some of the most generous laws in the country when it comes to protecting labor unions and labor rights. Those protections, while in many cases valid, drive up the cost for companies doing business in New York and therefore drive up consumer prices.
One immediate effect of this bill will be the cost to taxpayers, who would be forced to pay out additional unemployment benefits to more workers.
Perhaps more importantly, by providing this extra safety net to striking workers, it removes much of their incentive for going back to the bargaining table and reaching a reasonable compromise.
The bill also puts companies in an unfair negotiating position for the same reason — workers can better afford to play hardball in negotiations for more money and benefits, at the expense of employers, if they don’t have the Sword of Damocles hanging above their heads.
This is why many states don’t provide any unemployment for striking workers.
Private employers already have enough disadvantages when doing business in New York without the state handing unions a new card to play in contract talks.
To oppose this legislation is not being anti-union or pro-business.
It’s simply maintaining the degree of fairness in contract talks that currently exists between labor and management.
When this bill goes to Gov. Cuomo’s desk for his signature, he needs to resist the financial influence of big labor and veto this bill.