Worker-employer dynamic at risk [Rep-Am]

April 22, 2022

Rep-Am Editorial Board on Sen. Sampson’s opposition to providing state unemployment benefits to workers who go on strike: “We concur with Senator Sampson…”


Waterbury Republican-American Editorial

Despite opposition from Gov. Ned Lamont and the Republican minority, the Democratic majority in the Connecticut Senate has passed what Gov. Lamont called a “novel” bill that would provide state unemployment benefits to workers who go on strike. 


Novel is a diplomatic way to put it; the bill could be more accurately described as bizarre, radical and unnecessary. 


If it becomes law, the proposal could fundamentally change the employer-employee dynamic in a way that threatens the state’s business climate while putting taxpayers on the hook.


Workers have the right to use whatever legal tactics they see fit to improve their compensation and working conditions, including depriving their employers of the labor necessary to run a business. 


But the very nature of a strike is that workers are willing to forgo compensation during the duration of the strike and lose their source of income if employers chose to fire them instead of acceding to their demands. 


These risks place a high threshold on employees’ incentives to strike, thereby ensuring workers do not attempt to strong-arm their employers for frivolous reasons.


Similarly, Connecticut’s unemployment program is structured to avoid incentivizing people to abandon the workplace. Workers who are fired, laid off or furloughed are eligible for benefits, but those who choose not to work generally are not.


While strikes are relatively rare now, that could change under a policy that allows strikers to punish their employers while being shielded by Connecticut taxpayers from the costs of their own actions. And given that the bill’s definition of a strike is so loose that it would apply to a situation in which only two employees refuse to return to a given workplace, it provides an easy out for employees who want to quit their jobs without giving up the right to collect unemployment benefits.


Legislators are underestimating or simply ignoring the downstream effects such a policy could have on Connecticut’s private sector. Forcing taxpayers to fund disruptions to the markets they rely on is about as backwards as a public policy can be. 


We can’t help but wonder if Sikorsky’s parent company, Lockheed Martin, which just signed an agreement with the Lamont administration to keep Sikorsky’s headquarters in the state for another 20 years, is having buyer’s remorse.


Lockheed Martin already has a production operation in Florida; Gov. Ron DeSantis might want to ask CEO Jim Taiclet if he wants to reconsider his investment up north.


“As a free society in Connecticut and the United States, we are free to make individual choices,” Sen. Robert C. Sampson, R-16th District, and Senate ranking member of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, said in a news release following his chamber’s passage of the bill, which he opposed. “From these choices, we’re subject to the opportunity or failure that goes along with it. We must accept responsibility regardless of the outcome. This legislation removes this personal responsibility and ultimately places it on the employer and fellow taxpayers.”


We concur with Sen. Sampson, as well as Gov. Lamont, who also has criticized the bill, according to a report in the Republican-American. 


Gov. Lamont should veto the bill if it passes the House and reaches his desk.