North Dakota Supreme Court Gives Locked Out Crystal Workers Unemployment Benefits

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In a ruling that boils down to North Dakota taxpayers subsidizing labor disputes, the North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled that American Crystal union members are entitled to unemployment benefits.

Using some rather tortured linguistic acrobatics, the court’s majority somehow manages to conclude that “work stoppage dispute of any kind” somehow doesn’t mean a lockout.

“We therefore conclude the legislative history of N.D.C.C. § 52-06-02(4) supports this Court’s interpretation that ‘a claimant’s work stoppage dispute of any kind’ does not include an employer initiated lockout,” reads the majority opinion.

Wow.

It wasn’t a unanimous opinion (read it here). In dissent, Justice Sandtrom wrote that the majority opinion is “inconsistent with the purpose of the legislation under consideration.” Justice VandeWalle called the legislative intent “ambiguous.”

“This is a matter for the Legislature to resolve,” wrote VandeWalle in dissent.

The question is, will the legislature put in place bill to make the legislative intent clear? They should. Unions maintain strike funds to pay their workers during disputes. The unions shouldn’t be able to use unemployment benefits to subsidize their decision to reject a contract.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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