Legislation to extend unemployment benefits to locked out union workers isn’t going to be considered during the special session in Bismarck. Which is as it should be, whether you’re for the legislation or not, because that sort of business should be exposed to the full political process of the special session.
But regardless, the union folks are going to do what they do best. Which is throw a pity party for themselves, this time outside of the legislature:
BISMARCK — Locked-out union workers at American Crystal Sugar’s North Dakota plants say they will rally Wednesday at the state Capitol to urge legislators to reconsider their exclusion from North Dakota’s unemployment compensation system.
With some workers coming Wednesday morning by bus from the Red River Valley, they say they’re hoping for a turnout of well over 100 people.
Workers at the company’s Minnesota plants are able to claim unemployment benefits in that state, and Sen. Phil Murphy, D-Portland, had tried to introduce a bill in this week’s special legislative session to make locked-out workers at North Dakota plants eligible for similar benefits.
Murphy’s bill was rejected Monday by the Senate Delayed Bills Committee, with three Republican members voting against and two Democrats voting for its introduction, as about two dozen union members watched.
“I had a worker call me today and ask, ‘Is this thing dead?’ I told him that hope is what we have,” Murphy said Tuesday. “People have urged them to come back here to the Capitol and show some support, show some need.” …
Murphy said an attempt likely will be made to attach his unemployment compensation bill to the large disaster relief package making its way through the session, but he acknowledged that will be difficult.
“It’s definitely an uphill fight,” he said. “But my take on this situation isn’t political. It’s about humanity. The workers want to be working. No one wants to be on social services.
If they want to be working then perhaps they should have accepted one of the various iterations of contracts American Crystal has put on the table. Even the union-friendly National Labor Relations Board has suggested the union has been obstinate in these negotiations.
But as for policy, why should the taxpayers be on the hook for what amounts to strike pay for these workers? Why should the taxpayers subsidize this sort of a contract dispute?
Maybe the workers should look to their union, and not the taxpayers, for support during the lockout.
Update: Rep. Lee Kaldor just attached the unemployment language as an amendment to the flood relief bill in the legislature according to a source in the House.
That’s big time inappropriate. Not only is this an issue that shouldn’t be considered during the special session, it’s an issue that should be passed on its own merits not because it’s attached to another bill.