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November 20, 2023

Striking workers could collect unemployment if legislation being considered in Harrisburg passes

One union leader describes the bill, which now heads to the Senate, as 'a beacon of hope and fairness'

Government Strikes
Strike Unemployment benefits Dan Rainville/USA TODAY NETWORK

A bill that would allow striking workers to collect unemployment benefits passed the Pennsylvania House and now heads to the Senate.

A bill to allow striking workers to collect unemployment benefits passed the Pennsylvania House last week in a 106-97 vote and now heads to the Senate for consideration. 

House Bill 1481, which advanced out of the 25-member Labor & Industry Committee along party lines last month, amends Pennsylvania's Unemployment Compensation Law to allow eligible workers who file a UC claim to collect benefits if they are unemployed due to a labor dispute.

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Allegheny County Democrats, Reps. Mandy Steele and Dan Miller, co-sponsored the bill, citing striking workers at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, who have been on strike for more than a year, as their motivation for the legislation.  

"If the right to strike is a legal guarantee by the federal government, then there should be economic systems of support in place, especially when these workers are paying into our UC system," Steele said.

At a press conference with lawmakers, union leaders from across the Commonwealth said the bill levels the playing field for workers. 

Bill Goldberg, a business representative at Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 19, described the bill as "a beacon of hope and fairness for the men and women who toil day in and day out to build the foundations of our society."

The right to collect unemployment compensation when on strike is not a concession, Goldberg explained. "It is the fundamental acknowledgement of the sacrifices workers make for the greater good."

State Rep. Jason Dawkins (D-Philadelphia) added that allowing workers to collect benefits would provide a "safety net" to striking workers. 

"Making the decision to strike is not easy by any means," Dawkins, who chairs the House Labor and Industry Committee, said. "It's a decision that often results in loss of pay, which is money our workers need to provide food and housing for their families. So, this legislation is of utmost importance to our workers and would protect their right to bargain for better pay and working conditions without the loss of income."

Dawkins urged the Senate to take up the bill, "so we can finally have pro-worker bills and really reset our commitment to our labor brothers and sisters, that we are committed and we're standing right with you, side-by-side, and guaranteeing that you will no longer be underserved or underrepresented."

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