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House OKs jobless benefits for strikers

House lawmakers in Pennsylvania voted Wednesday to extend jobless benefits to workers on strike.

House Bill 1481, which passed the lower chamber 106-97, would make workers unemployed due to a labor dispute eligible for compensation, alongside others who haven’t voluntarily quit their jobs.

“Making the decision to strike is not easy by any means,” said Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Philadelphia. “It’s a decision that often results in loss of pay, which is money our workers need to provide food and housing for their families.”

Dawkins, who chairs the House Labor and Industry Committee, joined other state representatives and union officials from United Steelworkers, SEIU and Sheetmetal Workers on Wednesday afternoon to promote the legislation.

“This legislation is of utmost importance to our workers and would protect their right to bargain for better pay and working conditions without the loss of income,” he said.

The controversial legislation, however, is likely dead on arrival in the Senate. Critics say the proposal would steal money from taxpayers to support union strikes.

“Taxpayers and job creators should not bear the burden of funding strikes,” Nathan Benefield, senior vice president of the Commonwealth Foundation. “Raising taxes to incentivize walkouts and picket lines is a slap in the face to hardworking Pennsylvanians. We’ve seen firsthand how strikes hurt workers, taxpayers, and consumers alike, and this bill would only worsen matters.”

The foundation, which advocates for fiscally conservative policies, said the state should focus on preventing union leaders from using “strong-arm tactics, lies and threats” to force strikes.

The Center Square reached out to Senate leadership for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

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