Striking New York Workers Could Collect Unemployment on Picket Lines

May 31, 2019

A bill recently passed by the New York State Senate would enable striking workers to collect unemployment benefits after only one week, substantially reducing the incentive to quickly settle collective bargaining disputes.

Most states disqualify workers from receiving UI benefits if they participate directly in strikes.  However, a few states allow striking workers to receive benefits after a certain waiting period.  Moreover, most states don't disqualify workers from UI who are locked out or are not directly involved in the dispute, but who lose their job as a result of the dispute.  Also, workers in some states may be eligible for UI benefits if the strike is triggered by the employer's violation of an active collective bargaining agreement, a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, or a violation of state or federal wage and hour laws.

Under current New York state law, striking workers must wait seven weeks before they are eligible to receive unemployment benefits unless there is a lockout or the employer hires replacement workers.  That would change to just one week under Senate Bill S.4573

In New Jersey, striking workers can collect UI benefits after 30 days under a bill signed in 2018.

California’s state assembly also passed a bill that would allow striking workers to collect UI benefits after four weeks.

Takeaway:  Unions are using their political power in certain states to lessen the impact of strikes on union members and other states are likely to attempt to pass similar legislation.