Thursday, May 19, 2016

Striking Workers Shouldn't Get Unemployment Benefits

Striking Verizon workers could receive N.J. unemployment benefits under a bill now working its way through the New Jersey legislature. It already passed the New Jersey Senate Labor Committee. As’s Samantha Marcus reports in the New Jersey Star-Ledger:

Striking workers could be eligible to collect unemployment benefits in New Jersey under a bill approved by the state Senate Labor Committee on Monday.

The bill is aimed at assisting Verizon workers who've been on strike for a month, but would change the rules for receiving unemployment insurance for all during labor disputes.

Verizon employees from the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers filled the Senate hearing room beyond capacity Monday as the panel heard this bill. . . .

This is a political ploy. Even if the bill manages to get through the entire legislature, Governor Chris Christie is likely to veto it. But the fact that it was even proposed, let alone voted out of committee, makes this worth commenting on. Judging by the comments section, there isn’t much general support for the bill either.

I left these comments:

Government officials, especially elected officials, have a constitutional and moral responsibility to represent all people equally and without bias. It’s called equal protection of the law. This means the officials should not take sides in private contractual disputes unless fraud or physical coercion (rights violations) are evident. It’s bad enough to consider allowing striking workers to collect even though they are off the job voluntarily (Vitale’s embarrassingly rationalistic “really almost (been) forced to be off the job” comment notwithstanding). It is vulgar for the legislature to use taxpayer money to dish out special favors to one politically connected union, which is explicitly the reason for this bill. It is blatant cronyism that could enable the union to extract concessions from Verizon by legal coercion rather than legitimate voluntary agreement. (And then will these workers be made to pay back the illegitimately collected unemployment funds with the ill-gotten “negotiated” Verizon benefits they will have “won” because of the taxpayer backing?)

As a lifelong union member, I oppose this bill. I once participated in a 6-week strike. It’s hard. But I never considered that the taxpayers should subsidize me during the time I was out of work while we voluntarily exercised our right to strike for personal gain.

Shame on this committee. If it passes the legislature, I hope Christie vetoes it. No wonder New Jersey is considered the corruption capitol of the nation.


I might add that I oppose government-mandated and/or government-run unemployment compensation schemes. The proper role of government is to protect every individual’s right to manage his own affairs, so long as his actions don’t violate or interfere with the same rights of others.

Related Reading:

"Greed" is a Two-Way Street


Mike Kevitt said...

Don't these unions, and other unions, force workers into membership or at least force them to pay dues thru labor law, on the basis of an election the unions held with non-union workers on their being represented by the unions in bargaining with the company? If a majority of the workers vote in favor of union representation, they are ALL represented. The labor law says so. The minority is forced to pay for representation they don't want, and they must abide by the insane work rules that will be established. And, of course, the company eagerly desires and backs all this. Those labor laws force the company to accept it.

Under this regime, how can 'collective bargaining' be called voluntary action by individual members? How can a strike be similarly called voluntary action?

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

These are private sector unions. Even so, labor law requires that if a majority of employees doing a particular type of work for a company votes to unionize (or join an existing union), the company must recognize the union as representative of that entire employee sector and the minority must join the union or leave. That’s my understanding.

That aside—and presuming that all members of the union are there voluntarily, as I am regarding my union—you agree to abide by union by-laws and majority vote, as in the case of the decision to strike or not. So, yes, if the membership majority votes to strike, every member is presumed to have voluntarily walked off the job including anyone who voted not to strike. The interference of coercive labor laws certainly complicates the moral evaluation, though.

I should add that not all union-company relationships are coercive. Some are voluntary contractual arrangements between companies and unions operating in industries that can and do include non-union competition. I’m not sure about Verizon’s union relationship. But in construction-related industries (including my industry, plumbing), company-union relationships are generally voluntary and mutually beneficial. For example, my union is required to provide apprentice training, retirement and health benefits, and whatever fringe benefits like sick and vacation pay the membership democratically approves, all at union membership expense. There are also no seniority rules.

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