Striking workers would receive unemployment insurance in legislation passed by Connecticut Senate – Hartford Courant

The state Senate approved on Wednesday legislation that would pay for unemployment insurance for striking workers, a boost for Connecticut’s unionized employees who could financially resist strikes and end established state policy that restricts benefits to employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

The measure passed 19-13 in the Democratic-led Senate, largely along party lines. It now heads to the House of Representatives.

Yielding to strong and unified opposition from Republicans, Democrats twice moved the date the measure would go into effect to July 1, 2024. The measure was originally due to take effect on October 1 and was postponed until January 1, 2023.

“We listened to what our colleagues were saying,” said Sen. Julie Kushner, a Danbury Democrat and co-chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, explaining the decision to extend the effective date.

The measure makes workers eligible for unemployment benefits after they have been on strike for two consecutive weeks.

In a debate that lasted about three hours, Democrats said it would be unusual to pay unemployment insurance to strikers. The last major work stoppage was an 11-day strike in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union against Stop & Shop in April 2019.

Democrats said they want to give workers a boost against powerful companies.

“The balance always tips in the direction of the employers who have the most resources,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney.

Republicans said that under the Democrats’ plan, the state would abandon neutrality and pick sides in labor disputes.

“Our job is to represent all of our constituents,” said state Sen. Rob Sampson, the top Republican on the Labor committee. “And that includes not just employees or union employees or employers. Includes everyone. And our job is not to put our hand in the balance either.”

State Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said paying unemployment benefits to strikers would give unions state-provided leverage that would “step in” on contract negotiations between two private parties.

Norwalk Sen. Bob Duff Majority Leader said the legislation protects small businesses from multinational corporations. The move “is not about a mom-and-pop store with eight employees,” he said.

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