Governor Indicates Veto of Striking Workers Unemployment Bill

Issues & Policies

Gov. Ned Lamont indicated May 9 that he will veto controversial legislation designed to provide unemployment benefits to striking workers.

“I just think it was too cute by half,” he told reporters following the legislature’s May 8 adjournment.

“If you want to have public dollars to support striking workers, have a vote up or down: ‘I want public dollars to go to support striking workers.’”

HB 5431, drafted in the waning days of session, passed the Senate on a 23-12 party line vote with eight minutes left in the legislative session May 8.

The bill passed the House on a 90-59 vote May 3, with seven Democrats—Hector Arzeno (D-Greenwich), Jill Barry (D-Glastonbury), Lucy Dathan (D-New Canaan), Jamie Foster (D-Ellington), Rachel Khanna (D-Greenwich), Jennifer Leeper (D-Fairfield), and Christopher Poulos (D-Southington)—joining all Republicans present in opposition.

Last-Minute Workaround

HB 5431, originally drafted as a review of General Fund appropriations, was amended on the House floor to incorporate the intent of HB 5164, which allowed striking workers to claim unemployment benefits.

The bill creates a $3 million “Connecticut families and workers account” administered by the state Comptroller “for the purposes of assisting low-income workers.”

CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima called HB 5431 “a sneaky way to work around a discussion that was very public in nature.”

“It removed the burden from business and shifted it to the taxpayer,” he said. “That’s not a good use of taxpayer money.”

Both bills drew widespread opposition, with major employers General Dynamics Electric Boat and RTX sharing their concerns with legislative leaders.

“The proposed legislation would further erode Connecticut’s business climate, rendering other states more viable options for future work,” RTX officials wrote in a May 6 letter.

“Current state statute, read in concert with long-standing employee protections under federal labor law, achieves the proper balance between the policy purposes of unemployment compensation and employees’ collective bargaining rights,” noted Electric Boat officials.

Labor Committee’s Costly Agenda

HB 5164 was one of a series of costly measures proposed by the Labor and Public Employees Committee this session.

CBIA tracked 45 committee bills, including expansion of the state’s paid sick leave mandate, workers’ compensation changes, noncompete bans, tipped worker salaries, and more. 

In addition to expanding paid sick leave to all employers, the legislature approved additional changes to the paid family and medical leave statute.

SB 220 clarifies the appeals process for paid FMLA, allowing the Department of Labor commissioner to require witnesses and documents in connection with appeals.

The bill also makes any decision by the commissioner final on the 30th calendar day after a written copy is sent to each party, in the absence of a timely appeal from an aggrieved party.

SB 222 amends the provisions of the paid FMLA statutes by codifying requirements for employers to register and submit reports to the Paid Leave Authority, which administers the program.

The bill also allows the governor to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the state’s federally recognized tribes to allow employees of the tribe or any tribally owned business to participate.

Other Bills

The legislature failed to act on most Labor Committee-approve bills by the end of session including:

  • SB 136: Imposes penalties on employers for not complying with the requirements of the state-run retirement plan. The bill, which passed the Senate and did not get a vote in the House, also reduced from 120 days to 30 days the time an employee must work for an employer to be a “covered employee.
  • HB 5269: Makes noncompete and exclusivity agreements unenforceable under certain conditions. The bill was referred by the House to the Judiciary Committee, which did not act on it before its deadline for reporting legislation.
  • SB 221: Phases in the amount of tips that cannot be included in the minimum wage beginning July 1, 2024.
  • HB 5468: Requires employers to provide 12 months notice prior to making any change to such employer’s policy regarding payment for unused accrued paid leave upon an employee’s separation from employment. 
  • SB 408: Amends the definition of “hours worked” by including the time an employee spends in security screenings required by an employer for purposes of Chapter 558 of the general statutes. 
  • SB 409: Mandates that any contractor entering a construction contract shall be jointly and severally liable for any unpaid wages due to any employee of any subcontractor in a direct contractual relationship with the contractor. 
  • SB 412: Requires warehouses with 100 or more employees at a single center or 1,000 at multiple locations to provide employees, in writing, with their quotas by Aug. 1, 2025 (or upon hire) and any potential adverse employment action that may result from a failure to meet each quota.
  • SB 413: Requires any retail establishment, a food services establishment, a hospitality establishment or a long-term healthcare services establishment with 500 or more employees with 20 or more locations, or a franchisee that is part of a network of franchises within the U.S. or globally employs 500 or more in the aggregate to get a written statement of hours and days that the employee can work and provide an estimated schedule for the employee. 
  • HB 5470: Requires the commissioner of the Department of Transportation to establish a reciprocity agreement with neighboring states to allow network workers to pick up passengers and deliveries across state lines.  
  • HB 5266: Shortens the time an employer can protest any unemployment benefits they contend have been improperly charged to their unemployment insurance quarterly statements due to fraud or error from 60 days to 40 days.  
  • SB 410: Allows students who turn 15 years old by the end of the school year to participate in paid internships through work-based learning.
  • SB 411: Allows, upon the request of an exclusive representative of a bargaining unit, temporary employees who are employed to perform the same or similar types of work as permanent employees. 

Top priorities for the Labor Committee next year will include requiring the minimum wage for tipped workers and other workplace mandates regarding the workplace. 

CBIA will continue to advocate for commonsense bills that make it easier for companies to grow and provide opportunities for their employees.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Ashley Zane (860.244.1169) | @AshleyZane9.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay Connected with CBIA News Digests

The latest news and information delivered directly to your inbox.