Commentary

Important Pro-Employer Bill Killed by Labor Unions

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Another pro-employer bill has died at the hands of the divided 127th Legislature.

LD 1501, “An Act To Amend the Law Regarding Disqualification for Unemployment Benefits during Stoppages of Work,” sponsored by my colleague Representative Joel Stetkis (R-Canaan) would have done nothing more than disallow people who have chosen to go on strike from collecting unemployment benefits.

The unemployment system is paid into through payroll taxes on employers – why would they want to fund employees who have chosen to strike? Is that not at least part of why labor unions exist? It simply does not make sense that private enterprise would be essentially paying employees who choose not to work.

Unemployment benefits are intended to ease the burden on people who have lost their jobs, as they look for new work. They are meant to help people who have lost their job through no fault of their own, and to help people who do not have a job option available to them.

In order to continue creating jobs in our state, we must take measures that encourage employers to come to Maine, expand in our state and hire Mainers. Telling employers that the money they are giving to the unemployment system might one day be going to pay workers for not working is a good way to discourage them from coming to Maine.

Unfortunately, this legislation hit partisan roadblocks all the way through. Democrats voted against it on party line in the committee I chair, Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development (LCRED), against it in the Senate and then in the House. While the bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate, it met its fate in the Democrat-controlled House, and is now dead in what legislative parlance calls “non-concurrence.”

I am, quite frankly, disappointed to once again see a good bill shot down by partisan politics. It is not a stretch to say the long arm of the labor union lobby reached into this legislation and helped to kill it. Having served on the LCRED Committee since first being elected in 2010, this is not the first time I have seen sensible legislation defeated by labor unions, and I doubt it will be the last.

To truly support workers in our state, we need to be bringing good, solid companies to Maine. We need to be encouraging existing enterprises to expand, grow their profits, and in doing so, increase wages and hire more people. We can’t keep burdening business with ridiculous regulations, high taxes, high energy costs, and red tape and expect them to thrive.

We can also support workers with training and education. If payroll tax dollars aren’t going to pay people for striking, they could be cut (what a novel idea!), or barring that, the revenue could be put toward programs that help attract workers to Maine, such as student loan credits, or classes to retrain workers to enter new industries. Growing and improving our skilled workforce would benefit our state far more than paying people to be on strike.

LD 1501 was a straightforward, simple piece of legislation intended to help our employers, and in doing so, our state’s economy. Unfortunately, it will go no further this year and will serve only as another example of the undue influence of certain lobbies at the State House.

About Amy Volk

Senator Amy Volk represents Maine Senate District 30, which includes Gorham, and parts of Buxton and Scarborough. She is also the founding board chair for Maine Connections Academy. She may be contacted at avolk@volkboxes.com.

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