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Letter: Governor must turn down unemployment benefits bill

Much work has been done in the last few years to put the Buffalo Niagara region on the cusp of a sustained resurgence. The Buffalo Niagara Partnership and the Business Council of New York State are proud to have played an important role in helping to bring about the region’s renaissance. While we remain committed to our mission to grow private investment and jobs in the region, we are also focused on fighting policies that would threaten this momentum. A bill before Gov. Andrew Cuomo would do just that.

The legislation in question, S4573/A6592 which passed both chambers and awaits action by the governor, would allow striking workers to receive unemployment benefits only one week after walking off the job. New York is one of just three states that provides unemployment benefits to striking workers and currently the state law allows workers to collect benefits if the strike lasts longer than 49 days. The proposed change would place an undue burden on employers and would turn back the clock on efforts to bring more economic growth and jobs to the region.

Many New Yorkers do not know that unemployment benefits are wholly funded by a tax on businesses and the amounts are not insignificant. Not so long ago, in 2013, the fund was $3 billion in the red. The state increased taxes on businesses to pay back a loan from the federal government so that the fund could be stabilized. Employers now pay more than $2 billion annually in state unemployment insurance taxes. If the governor signs this legislation into law, there is no doubt that affected employers would see their unemployment taxes increase once again.

Organized labor would have less incentive to resolve a dispute quickly if they know workers will be receiving wage replacement benefits. Business works best when management and labor work together. This legislation upends that necessary balance creating unpredictable working conditions that can disrupt the flow of business with damaging consequences.

Governor Cuomo has worked hard to enact programs that encourage business to come here. If New York wants to continue to attract business and jobs to the state, the governor must veto S4573/A6592. We want to make New York more open to business, not send companies running for states where they would be more welcome.

Heather C. Briccetti, Esq.

Dottie Gallagher

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