The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 08, 2012

Bill would allow part-timers to earn jobless benefits

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING – Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then, the old saying goes.

So it goes with the Republican-dominated Michigan Senate, which, after 18 months of sponsoring nearly non-stop anti-labor legislation, actually adopted a worker-and employer-friendly bill.

On May 23, the Senate unanimously adopted Senate Bill 1094, legislation that would allow for the payment of unemployment benefits to individuals whose wages and hours have been reduced. This would allow employees working part-time to also collect unemployment benefits and enable companies to retain multiple employees rather than laying them off.

“It doesn’t matter whose name is on the bill, what matters is that the Legislature is taking action to provide help for Michigan workers struggling to get by and enable companies to retain top-flight talent,” said state Sen. Vince Gregory (D-Southfield). “We have been calling for action on work-sharing legislation for more than a year and I applaud (bill sponsor Sen. Bruce Caswell’s (R-Hillsdale) efforts to finally get some traction on this important lifeline for working families.”

Gregory said work-sharing has proven to be an effective tool in other states to reduce unemployment and help part-time workers stay afloat. It has also enabled businesses in other states to keep their payroll commensurate with their production and adjust to downturns in demand without losing valuable employees.

“Today’s unemployment compensation system is not adequate or agile enough to retain our best talent,” Caswell said. “Much of our young and highly skilled talent is mobile, making it easy to seek work elsewhere after a layoff.”

According to Gongwer News Service, the bill would apply to employers with two or more employees. They would be permitted to reduce the employees’ hours, while allowing them to receive reduced unemployment benefits to somewhat make up for their losses. The unemployment benefits acquired during that time period would not count toward future unemployment benefit collections should that employee be laid off at another time.

The bill now goes to the state House for consideration. Gov. Rick Snyder has expressed support for the legislation.

Gregory attempted to reinstate the number of jobless benefit weeks for the state’s unemployed to 26, after state Republicans reduced the benefit weeks to 20 last year. His amendment was shot down along party lines, with Sen. Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights) the only GOP’er voting with Dems.