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CT Legislators Want Unemployment for Striking Workers

Connecticut has an affordability crisis. State government shouldn’t worsen it by wading into the murky waters of private labor negotiations and both incentivizing labor unrest and prolonging strikes — which will raise the price of everything from food to construction projects. That is what will happen if  S.B. 938 becomes law.

Sometimes, strikes are necessary.

I have walked the picket line supporting Sikorsky workers and I’ve also stood in solidarity with Stop & Shop, wanting employees to be treated fairly. But I’ve done so knowing workers and business both had to balance the interests and costs of the labor action, which incentivizes both sides to get back to the bargaining table and find a mutually agreeable resolution.

S.B. 938 would upend this balance by forcing businesses to fund striking workers through unemployment. It thereby puts a thumb on the scale in labor’s favor, in a way that no other New England state does — nor do 49 other states, leaving New York as the lone exception.

The consequence would be to apply severe financial pressure on employers — both by increasing the duration of strikes and by tapping unemployment, which is a self-contained system paid for by employers and administered by the state. One Stop & Shop worker testified in 2022 that a previous bill with identical requirements was designed to increase employee “leverage” and admitted, “Had we had unemployment benefits to rely on during the 2019 strike, we might’ve been able to stay out longer.”

The cost does not stop there, according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis. The Connecticut Department of Labor will need roughly $400,000 in technology updates to the agency’s ReEmployCT unemployment insurance system. It is also anticipated that at least $200,000 will be needed in CTDOL staff overtime pay to implement provisions of the bill.

Furthermore, a company’s unemployment experience rating is included as a fiscal cost factored into bids for state, municipal and private construction costs. S.B. 938 will harm company ratings and place upward pressure on the price of goods, as well as our taxes.

Rather than using its own funds to assist workers during a strike — a prime justification for its existence — the AFL-CIO is instead encouraging its members to contact their legislators to demand that they pass the bill so that taxpayers and businesses pick up the tab. And that tab will likely increase as businesses pass on the higher costs to their customers.

The bill places no restriction on union strike funds, however, so striking workers may collect funds from the unions as well. The result? Workers could be paid more to go and stay on strike than they would have made working — this will incentivize labor unrest.

The union wants to use this fact to pressure employers into acceding to their demands. Their call to action states: “If employers understood that their unemployment insurance experience ratings could be impacted if a strike goes on longer than two weeks, they would be more likely to come to the table and bargain in good faith to avoid the strike in the first place.”

This is not the purpose of unemployment. It’s intended to sustain individuals who lose their job through no fault of their own, not those who choose not to work. A key point Gov. Ned Lamont clearly recognizes.

What’s more, state government is supposed to remain neutral in disputes between private sector management and labor. But this bill both weaponizes the unemployment insurance system and puts government’s might behind one of Connecticut’s most influential special interests…yet again.

Labor strikes have impact far beyond the businesses and unions that are involved in any particular contract dispute. As we saw in the Stop & Shop strike, there is a real impact on the daily lives of residents and the prices they pay at the store. In the Sikorsky strike, it affected the incomes of an entire supply chain made up of small businesses who are dependent on orders from their partner to make the best helicopters in the world.

Tell your state legislators to reject S.B. 938. Let’s stop government from incentivizing labor unrest by mandating that businesses pay unemployment for the workers striking against them — driving up costs for all of us.

This article originally appeared in Hartford Courant.

Frank Ricci

Frank was the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case Ricci v. DeStefano and has testified before Congress. He has lectured at the Reagan Library and has been a lead consultant on several studies for the Yale School of Medicine. Frank has appeared on Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Cavuto Live, Hardball, NBC Nightly News, Fox & Friends, and other notable news shows. He is a contributing author to several books and a contributor to the Daily Caller. Frank retired as a Battalion Chief & Union President for New Haven Fire Fighters and has been awarded numerous commendations including the medal of valor. He serves on the advisory board for Fire Engineering Magazine. Frank lives with his wife in Wallingford, CT.

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