Earlier I wrote about a proposed amendment to HB1112 which would clarify existing law making it clear that unemployment benefits are not to go to workers involved in a labor dispute. Earlier this month the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the language was ambiguous, and granted unemployment benefits to a group of locked out American Crystal Sugar workers.
“It is our job to make sure that we clarify the intent of the legislation,” said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner.
After emotional testimony from Senator Phil Murphy – which invoked Jesus and “North Dakota nice” as reasons to allow benefits to workers in labor disputes – the Senate voted it down on a 33-14 vote.
“I think we should stick to the principle of staying out of labor disputes,” said Senator John Andrist during the debate.
Here’s the floor debate:
This was important legislation to pass as the Supreme Court’s ruling opens up the door to some serious increases in the cost of employing people in the state. According to comments made by Senator Andrist during the floor debate, the cost of paying out those benefits the courts awarded will raise the state’s cost of unemployment insurance by $26.00 per employee.
Imagine the cost of insuring employees were future strikes and lockouts eligible for unemployment benefits as well.
The idea that locked out workers would get unemployment benefits is ridiculous. They weren’t fired. Rather, they rejected a contract that was offered to them when they’re existing contract ended. It would be like you or I going to an employer, demanding a job at $100/hour, and then filing for unemployment benefits when we aren’t hired.
Update: I interviewed state Senator Jerry Klein, who introduced the amendment, shortly after the vote: