New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed a law Friday making workers on strike eligible to collect unemployment benefits in the state.
According to the legislation, workers are allowed to access unemployment benefits during a strike if the labor dispute was caused by the employer’s non-compliance with an agreement or existing labor laws.
State lawmakers initially proposed the legislation in 2016 after Verizon workers went on a highly publicized six-week strike against the telecommunications company’s contract demands. 4,600 of the strikers were from New Jersey.
A workers’ strike at the Taj Mahal a few months later also influenced the push for the bill.
At the time of the bill’s proposal, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a democrat, said the proposal would allow “workers to express their rights without being starved back to work”
Former New Jersey governor Christ Christie vetoed the bill that same year. However, legislators decided to have a second go around with it after democratic politician Murphy, who vowed to run the state significantly different from Christie, came into office.
Sweeney commended Murphy for signing the bill into law.
“I’m glad he signed it,” Sweeney told NJ Advance Media on Friday. “I think it levels the playing field for workers when they’re exercising their rights.”
Senator Joe Vitale, who sponsored the bill, expressed the importance of it for the state’s workers.
“After experiencing twice in the last few years what can go wrong during major strikes, this bill provides the frame work needed to protect New Jersey’s workers from financial hardship during strikes, lockouts and other work stoppages,” Vitale said.
The new law went in effect immediately after Murphy signed it, and applies to any unemployment claims made after July 1.