Bill Would Give Add’l Jobless Benefits to Locked-Out Workers

The Minnesota House already approved and the Senate is poised to vote Thursday on the bill, which would provide as much as half a year in additional unemployment benefits to idled workers during labor disputes.

The Minnesota House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill that, among other things, would provide longer-lasting jobless benefits to workers locked out by their companies during labor disputes—and the Senate is poised to vote on the measure Thursday.
 
The legislation regarding the benefits is part of an omnibus jobs and economic development bill. The bill calls for locked-out workers to receive as much as half a year in additional unemployment benefits; that’s on top of the 26 weeks they can currently claim and brings the total amount of time they can claim such benefits to one full year.
 
The extended benefits would not apply to professional athletes locked out by a professional sports team.
 
The version of the bill that the House just voted on, and that the Senate is about to vote on, was one that came out of a conference committee comprising five senators and five representatives. (The initial versions of the bill differed between the Senate and the House, so they went to a conference committee so that the two sides could hammer out an agreement.) If the Senate approves the bill, it will go to Governor Mark Dayton’s desk.
 
Representative Tim Mahoney, a Democrat, authored the House version of the bill. According to the Associated Press, Mahoney said the provision is intended to make companies think harder about the side effects of locking out employees during contract disputes. The news service also pointed out that unemployment claims usually affect premiums that companies pay for unemployment insurance.
 
Opponents reportedly contend that the measure gives an unfair advantage to unions when parties are at the bargaining table.
 
The bill was brought forth following three high-profile lockouts that have taken place in Minnesota over the past year.
 
Moorhead-based American Crystal Sugar Company management remained at odds with the company’s union workers during a 20-month lockout that came to a closure last month, when union workers voted to ratify management’s contract offer.
 
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians were also locked out for six months until late last month, when they ratified a three-year contract with orchestra management. 
 
And the Minnesota Orchestra is in an ongoing labor dispute with its musicians and last week canceled the remainder of its concert season.