(WKBN) – Democrat State Representatives Jeff Crossman from Parma and Lisa Sobecki from Toledo held a news conference Thursday morning, announcing legislative efforts to support union members while they strike.
A bill will be introduced that would grant union members access to unemployment benefits while they strike.
This is something not currently allowed here, but it is allowed in New York and New Jersey, according to Crossman.
The other measure would urge the federal government to allow union members to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The current federal law prohibits this.
According to Crossman and Sobecki, multi-billion dollar corporations have an unfair advantage over workers choosing to strike because they can simply afford to wait the workers out without feeling the financial pinch personally.
Meanwhile, families of striking union members can find it difficult to provide food for children and spouses, or to pay bills.
Some say union members need to own that choice, like State Representative Craig Riedel.
“To think that the government should come in and provide unemployment benefits as a result of a voluntary decision to go on strike is not something that I would support. Life is all about choices. I sympathize with their situation, but they made the decision to go on strike,” Riedal said.
The proposed legislation would be beneficial for all union members across Ohio.
It would also be retroactive to the beginning of this year. Providing that the emergency clause in the legislation stays intact, it would go into effect immediately after the governor signed it.
The likelihood of the legislation actually going anywhere is unknown, but there aren’t that many reasons to think it will.
The Republican-controlled Statehouse hasn’t even given a hearing to a bill to help the workers at the GM Lordstown plant, and it wasn’t that long ago they passed Senate Bill 5 only to have the people strike it down at the ballot box.
Still, Sobecki says this is a new General Assembly and points out that Speaker of the House Larry Householder is in the position he has now with a great deal of Organized Labor’s help.
Holding onto that position may continue to require that support, depending on how the general election goes in 2020.
Even if labor leans on householder to get the bill hearings, there is no guarantee it will get the votes it would need to pass, or go anywhere in the Senate and then to the governor.
So, if this is just an exercise futile, what is the point of it all? Is it a rhetorical attempt to draw attention to a problem that perhaps someday will get addressed? It wouldn’t be the first time that has occurred with legislation.
Is it simply a political maneuver to draw attention to a divide between representatives and some of the people they represent? We do not know.
However, when a union decides to strike, it’s because the union doesn’t agree with the deal it’s being presented.
We know workers receive no compensation while negotiations for better pay, safer work environments or better benefits are under way.
We know the company loses profits as a result of the work stoppage.
According to Crossman, allowing striking union members to get a portion of their pay from unemployment so they can put food on the table would be a benefit to the workers and communities they live in.
Crossman says the companies they work for pay into unemployment funds and the workers should be able to draw on those funds in times of emergency.