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Union Leaders Oppose New Worker Benefit Laws

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(Spencer Platt/File Photo Getty Images)

(Spencer Platt/File Photo Getty Images)

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LANSING (WWJ/AP) -New unemployment benefit measures that have been signed into law on Monday by Gov. Rick Snyder are raising the ire of local unions.

The new requirements come on top of an earlier law that cuts the length of time that jobless workers can get state unemployment benefits from the current 26 weeks to 20 weeks starting with new applicants in January.

While employers are likely to save money, Carla Swift, Michigan President of the AFL-CIO says these new measures are making a bad situation worse.

“We have the lowest benefits. Our laid off workers are least likely to be eligible for unemployment insurance. And, in 2012 now, we’re going to have the fewest weeks of benefits available,” Swift said.

“So, we’re extremely concerned that this is the kind of action in the legislature that is gonna make it more difficult for families in crisis to get back on their feet,” she said.

The measures require some unemployed workers to take new jobs after 10 weeks of benefits even if the available work is outside their previous experience or pays lower wages than they were making before. They also make it harder for someone to collect jobless benefits if they’re fired for cause or leave a job voluntarily.

“While you’re looking for work in your field, or in a comparable field, you will be forced to take other employment that essentially reduces the lifeline benefits that you will have to unemployment, because you take a significantly lower-paying job, at some point get laid off again … now your benefits are even lower,” Swift said.

Snyder disagrees with that thinking, saying the new law encourages people to work. “It’s easiest to find a job when you’ve gotten a job,” he said. (More on this, here).

Swift wonders how the passing of measures fits in with a purported plan to create a smaller government.

“It is kind of amazing when you look at the articulated goals about what government ought to be and then look at the kind of legislation that has passed in 2011 by the legislature, and much of it signed into law,” said Swift. “It is extremely hard to believe that the agenda is smaller government.”

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