Sen. Sal DiDomenico and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate last week passed legislation to extend unemployment benefits for locked out National Grid workers for up to 26 additional weeks, or until National Grid workers are no longer locked out, whichever comes first. The benefits would be part of the existing unemployment insurance (UI) system.
“This lockout by National Grid of their union employees has been unjust from the very start, but it is truly egregious how long this has continued to last,” said Sen. DiDomenico. “These National Grid employees have been without salaries and health insurance for over six months now, and this bill passed by the Senate is meant to offset the enormous burden that has been placed on the workers and their families. I am proud to stand with the locked out gas workers as they continue to fight for their benefits, health insurance, and our public safety.”
“We have considered a range of options, and believe the bill we put forward is practical, feasible, and able to be implemented quickly, ensuring that these families incur no break in unemployment benefits,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “It is our hope that this action will provide some relief and peace of mind for those workers who want nothing more than to get back to work. We strongly encourage both parties to continue their negotiations and resolve this issue, without this issue as a pawn at the negotiating table.”
“The legislation adopted by the Senate today is a carefully chosen, limited and reasonable option to prevent economic hardship for 1,250 National Grid workers and their families,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester). “While it is an important measure to take, it is no substitute for a lasting and sustainable contract, that is fair to all parties including the ratepayers, that can only result from continuing good-faith negotiations between the parties. It is imperative that they redouble and intensify their efforts to produce that result.”
This legislation is designed to address the concerns of the approximately 1,250 workers scheduled to stop receiving UI benefits on January 14, 2019 because of the ongoing National Grid lockout. Under this legislation, benefits would be paid out through the existing unemployment insurance system, and will impact the experience rating of the employer engaged in the lockout, resulting in higher UI costs for that employer going forward.
A copy of the Senate bill, S.2692, can be found at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/S2692. It now goes to the House for consideration.