On Strike

As reported by the New Jersey Law Journal, Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Nov. 14 vetoed legislation that would have broadened the ability of striking workers to collect unemployment benefits while they were off the job.

In his veto message to S2160, Christie said it was bad enough that the state’s current unemployment compensation statutes already allow for striking workers to collect benefits if their job actions do not “substantially curtail” the operation of their employers.

Christie said the bill “adds insult to injury” since its provisions were retroactive to April 10, when Verizon workers went on strike across the United States.

About 40,000 Verizon workers went on strike in April, and approximately 4,600 of those were in New Jersey. They returned to work in June after reaching a contract agreement with the communications giant.

“The unemployment compensation law should not be used as a tool to give labor organizations added leverage in labor negotiations,” Christie said. “Signing this bill would compromise not only the integrity of the unemployment compensation law but also the availability of funds for individuals who do not have the option to return to their jobs.”

Christie added that since he took office, he has been able to turn a $2.1 billion deficit in the Unemployment Trust Fund to surplus of $1.9 billion.

He suggested that the Legislature should instead amend the current law to bar any striking worker from receiving unemployment benefits.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester.

“The governor’s action is disappointing and a disservice to New Jersey workers who are forced to strike as a last resort in their pursuit of fair compensation and treatment during a labor dispute,” Vitale said in a statement. “His conditional veto not only guts the intent of the bill, but it leaves individuals vulnerable to poor employment practices.”

The bill passed both houses of the Legislature in votes split along party lines.