The Lead

Bill to allow striking workers to collect unemployment advances from House Committee

By: - October 18, 2023 11:59 am
Pennsylvania Capitol Building. May 24, 2022. Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).

Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

The House Labor & Industry Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to advance legislation to allow striking workers in Pennsylvania to collect unemployment benefits.

The 25-member committee, chaired by Jason Dawkins (D-Philadelphia) voted 14-11 to pass an amended House Bill 1481, which changes Section 401 of Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Law. It would allow workers, who file a UC claim and are otherwise eligible for unemployment compensation, to collect benefits in the event that they are unemployed due to a labor dispute. 

The bill also notes that, in the case of a strike, “there shall be a 30-day waiting period, but the waiting period shall not apply in the event of a lockout.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Allegheny County Democrats Rep. Mandy Steele and Rep. Dan Miller who say they were motivated to pursue the legislation by striking workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who have been on strike for a full year as of Oct. 18.

“In light of the ongoing strike for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette union members and the high concentration of unions in western Pennsylvania, we must protect employees by making them eligible for unemployment compensation,” Steele said in a statement following the vote. “With this bill, we may ensure employees can continue to provide for themselves and their families.”

“Our neighbors in New York and New Jersey have laws on their books that allow for this. I believe we should follow suit,” the lawmakers wrote in a co-sponsorship memo seeking legislative support. 

In a similar effort to support striking workers, U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) introduced legislation in July to allow striking workers to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. 

Fetterman introduces bill to allow striking workers to collect SNAP benefits

The bill, known as the Food Secure Strikers Act of 2023, is currently before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

Not all legislation to support striking workers has been successful. California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Sept. 30 that would have allowed striking workers in that state to collect unemployment benefits, citing budgetary constraints. 

The Pennsylvania bill now awaits a vote by the full House chamber.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.