Bill to Extend Unemployment to Verizon Strikers Clears First Hurdle in NJ Senate Committee

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Over 100 Verizon strikers from CWA Local 1000 and IBEW Local 827 filled a New Jersey Senate Labor Committee hearing room beyond capacity Monday in support of a measure that would extend unemployment benefits to workers during a labor dispute in the state.

The bill sponsored by State Senator Joe Vitale and State Senate President Steve Sweeney would extend unemployment benefits to strikers during a strike or labor disputes.

The Senate Labor Committee passed the bill (S2169) 3 to 1.

Despite making record profits— $19 billion in profits over the last three years— Verizon has pushed to offshore more New Jersey call center jobs to countries like Philippines where workers make $1.77 an hour and transfer workers away from their families for months at a time.

“This is not a strike about wages, this is a strike about the future of American jobs,” testified CWA Political Director Seth Hahn.

On April13, Verizon forced workers off of the job after failing to bargain fairly for 10 months. On April 30, the company terminated workers’ health care coverage and life insurance coverage. While CWA has made a commitment to not let any striker or their family members go without necessary health care coverage, extending unemployment insurance to strikers will go a long way to help workers who are already in a difficult financial situation.

“This legislation is to support the workers who are putting their wages, their standard of living and health insurance on the line,” said Senator Vitale in his opening remarks.

New Jersey’s unemployment trust fund is financially secure. Governor Christie announced in April that the state is expected to surpass a balance of $1 billion in the unemployment insurance fund and the state will be returning $200 million to businesses through payroll tax cuts effective July 1.

Verizon lobbyists were present at Monday’s hearing and went on the record in opposition to the bill, but did not testify. The next step is for the bill to be introduced and passed in the Assembly. CWA will continue to work with lawmakers to ensure the advancement and passage of these bills.