Harrisburg, Pa.May 1, 2024 − Senator Lindsey M. Williams criticized Republican Senators for voting against workers and labor unions today, May Day, which is also known as International Workers Day. The amendment failed by a vote of 27-23, with nearly all Senate Republicans voting against the measure.

Senator Williams offered an amendment to Senate Bill 1109 that would extend unemployment compensation eligibility to striking workers. Historically, only workers experiencing a lockout received unemployment compensation; this legislation extends unemployment eligibility to all work stoppages due to a labor dispute. The language in this amendment is identical to Senator Williams’ Senate Bill 434, which was referred to the Labor and Industry Committee on March 9, 2023. The bill was also introduced last Session. It has yet to receive a hearing or consideration in Committee.

Senator Williams first introduced this legislation following the 2021 Allegheny Technologies Incorporated (ATI) Steelworkers strike, when 1,300 Steelworkers were forced to strike due to Unfair Labor Practices for 3 months, 1 week, and 6 days.

Since then, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters and production workers been forced to strike over labor violations. These workers are still on strike after 18 months, even though the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the Post-Gazette management failed to bargain in good faith and illegally imposed work conditions on the unions.

“In both of these cases, the striking workers spent months and months navigating a complicated unemployment system trying to secure benefits,” said Senator Williams. “Many of them came to my office seeking help. They were frustrated, disheartened, and often desperate. But they knew that they were doing the right thing by exercising their federally protected right to strike against employers who were bargaining in bad faith and committing unfair labor practices. Even though it came at great personal cost.”

In Pennsylvania, employers have a significant advantage over employees in a strike because they can bring in scabs (non-union workers) and continue to turn a profit. ATI stockpiled materials and brought in scabs to keep the plant running. The Post-Gazette still has scabs producing their paper. This tactic is used to break workers and force them back to the negotiating table to accept less.

“By extending unemployment benefits to otherwise qualified striking workers, we can help level the playing field just a little bit,” said Senator Williams. “I’m extremely disappointed that my Republican colleagues chose to pay lip service to supporting workers and working families today while invoking May Day, as they voted for policies that will actively hurt workers.”