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Massachusetts lawmakers propose paying striking workers 

As labor unions continue to go on strike across the country in both public and private sectors, workers often forego their paychecks and rely on unions’ strike funds to pay the bills. But in Massachusetts, striking workers could receive state unemployment benefits if a newly proposed bill passes in the state legislature.  

Massachusetts State Sen. Paul Feeney recently proposed Senate Bill S1172, which would funnel unemployment benefits to striking workers after thirty days. The bill’s text states that a striking worker “shall be entitled to recover any benefits lost as a result” of going on strike for over 30 days due to a “labor dispute.” It also says that the state of Massachusetts cannot “deny benefits to an otherwise eligible individual who becomes involuntarily unemployed” and “shall receive benefits for the period of his unemployment but in no event beyond the date of the commencement of a strike.”  

The bill added that “no waiting period or disqualification … shall apply if the labor dispute is caused by the failure or refusal of the employer” to comply with a collective bargaining agreement or contract. Meaning, if the employer caused the strike, the striking worker receives unemployment benefits without delay and without going through a waiting period. 

S1172’s sponsors are Sen. Paul Feeney and Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa. Feeney proposed a similar bill last year, but it did not make it out of the state Senate’s Ways and Means Committee. 

A former IBEW Local 222 legislative director and spokesperson, Feeney is an outspoken supporter of unions.  As recently as July 14, Feeney wrote about his support for Teamsters’ strike with UPS. “Proud to stand in solidarity w/@Teamsters as they fight for a contract with UPS, a company that has made billion$ in profits on the backs of their workers,” Feeney tweeted. “The 340,000 hard-working #UPSTeamsters across the US, 5k in MA, & their families, deserve a fair and equitable contract,” he added. 

Feeney’s bill is not unique among labor union supporters, though other states have passed similar laws. In New York, striking workers qualify for state unemployment benefits after 14 days due to a 2020 bill signed into law by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Before 2020, striking workers had to wait seven weeks to become eligible for New York’s unemployment benefits. 

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.