Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Strikers' Jobless Benefits Targeted

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Strikers' Jobless Benefits Targeted

Article excerpt

Business groups seek ban on unemployment pay for workers on the picket line.

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If business interests have their way, future strikers in Missouri won't be able to collect unemployment benefits as Machinists did during last summer's strike against McDonnell Douglas Corp. A ban on benefits for strikers is one of several changes in unemployment compensation being considered this year by the Missouri Legislature. Both business and labor groups are also proposing to increase the maximum weekly benefit, which at $175 is the lowest among the 50 states. McDonnell Douglas was furious when the state Labor Department approved unemployment benefits for the union members eight weeks into the 14-week strike. The aerospace giant was, in effect, subsidizing the 6,500 strikers, because employers finance the unemployment compensation trust fund. State law allows payments to workers involved in labor disputes where the employer has experienced no "substantial" cut in activities, production or services. The intent is to help workers who, for example, have been locked out by their employers and replaced by strikebreakers. It is also aimed at employers who might encourage a strike when there isn't enough work to keep staff busy. Some courts have interpreted a "substantial" cut to mean a reduction in work of between 25 and 30 percent. Because McDonnell Douglas bragged that the strike had little impact on production, the state ruled that the strikers deserved the benefits. The company had appealed the Labor Department's decision. But the appeal was dropped this month, company spokesman Tom Williams said. The company felt the cost of the appeal, in terms of time and money to both the company and the state, was not worth it, even though Williams said the decision will cost the company $2 million. Williams said the company would support efforts to curtail payments to strikers. A bill introduced by Sen. David Klarich, R-Ballwin, would do just that. "This is not a labor or business issue," Klarich said this week. . He stressed the fund should be a safety net for those laid off, not those who voluntarily leave a job, as through a strike. …

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