The New Jersey State AFL-CIO was proud to stand with Governor Murphy in the State House today when he signed A-4772 into law. In addition to the Governor, we applaud the strong efforts of the bill’s prime sponsors: Assemblymen Anthony Verrelli (D-15), Joe Egan (D-17) and Wayne DeAngelo (D-14) and Senators Paul Sarlo (D-36) and Fred Madden (D-4).
The law, which is now the strongest in the nation, awards unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to workers on strike for two weeks or longer, down from the previous waiting period of four weeks. The bill also closes several loopholes used by employers to deny UI benefits to workers under certain situations.
“Workers and their families often struggle financially when they go on strike to protest injustice in the workplace. Going on strike is a very difficult decision, but it is sometimes necessary when workers are pushed to their limits” said Charles Wowkanech, New Jersey State AFL-CIO President. “This law will help ease that financial hardship and we applaud Governor Murphy for standing with working people and enacting this legislation” concluded Wowkanech.
Prior to this bill being enacted, New Jersey’s laws governing unemployment benefits for workers locked out or on strike rarely ever actually delivered intended UI benefits to workers. In fact, according to the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development, only one strike ever qualified. New Jersey’s law concerning UI for locked out workers was enacted in 2005 and the law concerning UI for striking workers was enacted in 2018.
Yet over this time frame, the previous language of the law was an “on paper” only benefit to struggling workers. Despite the well intentioned “spirit” of UI benefits laws for workers involved in work stoppages, the unfortunate reality was that the previous state laws were so riddled with loopholes and long disqualifying waiting periods that they were of little benefit. Statistics show that the average strike in the United States last less than one week and 90% of strikes last four days. Therefore, a month long waiting period proved too long to be of benefit.
The New Jersey State AFL-CIO thanks all the affiliated unions that advocated for this important legislation. Finally, we thank all the members of the legislature that voted in favor. Your support for organized labor and workers on strike is a strong statement of your values and we are grateful.