New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy signed a law that will permit workers who are out on strike to collect unemployment benefits. The bill was first proposed in 2016, when 4,600 New Jersey citizens were among 40,000 Verizon employees who participated in a six-week strike over the company’s contract demands. At the time, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat from Gloucester, spoke of the bill’s importance, pointing out that it would “allow workers to express their rights without being starved back to work.” Despite the bill having passed 48-25 in the state Assembly and 23-14 in the state Senate, then-governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill in November. Murphy came into office in January of 2018 and has now signed the bill as part of a number of actions designed to advance workers’ rights.

The bill, S-1046, allows those who are unemployed as a result of a labor dispute to claim unemployment benefits if the dispute is a result of their employer’s failure to comply with existing labor laws or an established agreement. Senate Labor Committee Vice Chair Joseph F. Vitale sponsored the bill along with Senator Vin Gopal, and Vitale said, “It’s been long recognized that workers’ rights are human rights and that it is just and fair to uphold workers as they struggle to better their working conditions, compensation and benefits. This bill provides the framework needed to protect New Jersey’s workers from financial hardship while they exercise their right to fight for safe and fair working conditions.”

Though the bill does specify a 30-day waiting period for unemployment compensation, it also includes a carve-out for when the employee’s place of work puts a permanent replacement worker into their job. In these cases the waiting period does not apply. The law states that replacement workers are assumed to be permanent unless the employer explicitly states in writing that the original employee will be returned to their position once the dispute is resolved. The new law is effective for any claim period for unemployment that began on or after July 1, 2018.
If you have been out of work as a result of a labor dispute caused by your employer’s failure to uphold a contract or law, the governor’s action means that you can apply for compensation benefits that were not previously available to you. For more information on your rights on any type of employment or unemployment compensation issue, contact us today to set up a consultation.