STAFF SUMMARY OF MEETING
SENATE COMMITTEE ON STATE, VETERANS & MILITARY AFFAIRS
|Bills Addressed: ||Action Taken:|
|HB09-1170||Amended, Referred to the Committee of the Whole|
Senator Williams, Chair, called the meeting to order.
01:35 PM -- House Bill 09-1170
Senator Tochtrop, prime sponsor, presented House Bill 09-1170, concerning unemployment insurance benefits for locked-out employees. She said that House Bill 09-1170 will allow employees who have been locked out to be eligible for unemployment benefits under certain circumstances. She said that the bill will provide fair and equal access to unemployment benefits in Colorado, and will prevent negative economic consequences on the state.
The following persons testified in regard to House Bill 09-1170:
01:38 PM -- Chris Howes, representing the Colorado Retail Council, opposed House Bill 09-1170, and said that he supports Colorado's current law which requires that the party that initiates a labor dispute is the responsible party for the lock-out. He noted that there are currently concerns with the solvency of the state's unemployment funds. He said that lock-outs are a legitimate action on the part of employers and that unemployment funds should be reserved for those unemployed through no fault of their own. He commented on similar laws in place in other states.
01:45 PM -- James Hautzinger, representing the Rocky Mountain Food Industry Association and King Soopers, said that seven of ten western states he has surveyed deny compensation to employees in "lock-outs." He said that House Bill 09-1170 will put Colorado out of step with other western states. He said that the state's present law is an appropriate compromise between all parties.
01:57 PM -- Sybil Kisken, representing the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, noted that she is a labor attorney and said that House Bill 09-1170 is unnecessary. She noted that a lock-out in Colorado has not occurred since 1996. She said that, under current law, those who have been laid off must actively seek work and that House Bill 09-1170 will provide an exception to current law allowing persons who are still employed to seek unemployment compensation. She reiterated that Colorado's unemployment benefit funding is strained. She said that the truly unemployed will lose under House Bill 09-1170 and that the state should not encourage strikes and lock-outs.
02:21 PM -- Tony Gagliardi, representing the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), said that small business is creating new jobs in Colorado and that House Bill 09-1170 could jeopardize this job creation. He said that House Bill 09-1170 will allow employees who are locked out to receive support from both union organizations and through unemployment benefits. He reiterated House Bill 09-1170 may negatively impact the state's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. He suggested that House Bill 09-1170 may result in increased litigation costs. He noted that the NFIB has member business that employ unionized employees.
02:28 PM -- Dennis Jakubowski, representing the Associated General Contractors of Colorado, opposed House Bill 09-1170. He said that the bill changes a balance that has worked well for many businesses.
02:31 PM -- Joe Blake, representing the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, opposes House Bill 09-1170. He spoke of Colorado's current unemployment rate of 7.2 percent and noted that nearly 200,000 Coloradans are unemployed, and 60,000 are currently eligible for unemployment benefits. He noted that unemployment benefit payouts are expected to reach $834 million this year and said that the state's unemployment insurance funds could be insolvent within a year. He suggested that the state may have to borrow up to $800 million from the federal government in order to make these payments. He said that House Bill 09-1170 will allow benefits to union workers who still have jobs and that these funds should be reserved for persons who have lost their jobs due to the recession. He said that House Bill 09-1170 will dramatically change the balance of power in Colorado to favor unions. He said that the state's unemployment insurance funds were not meant for the purpose of supporting workers in lock-outs, and that House Bill 09-1170 will create uncertainty in labor law in Colorado.
02:38 PM -- Mike Cullen, Director, Unemployment Insurance Program, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, was present to answer questions from the committee. He said that he is uncertain that House Bill 09-1170 will "put the department into labor negotiations." He commented on the status of Colorado's Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund, and said that there is tremendous pressure on the fund today. However, he noted that surcharges that will be put in place will keep the fund solvent. He said that he sees potential for some periods of insolvency in the fund in 2011, and that no potential problems are foreseen for calendar year 2009 and 2010. Senator Tocthtrop said that legislation under consideration by the General Assembly is addressing the issue of the solvency of the UI Trust Fund. Mr. Cullen said that current estimates of the status of the UI Trust Fund do not include federal stimulus moneys. He commented on the investment of UI funds.
02:50 PM -- Robert Lopez, Wheat Ridge, representing himself, supported House Bill 09-1170, and commented on his work in the grocery industry. He spoke of situations in which he was locked out from working for his employer.
02:53 PM -- Andrea Karr, Highlands Ranch, representing herself, spoke of her experiences with a lock-out at Safeway. She said that the average person lives "paycheck to paycheck," and is only one check away from being on the streets.
02:56 PM -- Phil Hayes, representing the Colorado AFL-CIO, said that House Bill 09-1170, will give workers who have been locked-out through no fault of their own access to unemployment benefits. He commented on strike fund benefits that are offered by unions to locked out employees, and on the differences between strikes and lock-outs. He said that workers democratically determine to go on strike. He said that strikes are rare and lock-outs are even more rare. He said that if employers do not lock out employees there will be no impact on the UI Trust Fund under the bill.
03:14 PM -- Linda Meric, representing the 9 to 5 National Association of Working Women, supported House Bill 09-1170. She said that workers who are locked out are not working due to a decision on the part of their employer.
03:17 PM -- Reverend Patrick Demmer, Denver, representing himself, supported House Bill 09-1170, and commented on "offensive versus defensive" lock-outs. He said that employees have the moral right to receive benefits in the situation of a lock-out. He said that employees only vote to strike when they feel that they have no other option. He said that lock-outs are sometimes used in a "mean-spirited" manner, and that House Bill 09-1170 will bring fairness to these situations.
03:23 PM -- Crisanta Duran, representing the United Federation of Commercial Workers, supported House Bill 09-1170. She listed other organizations that support House Bill 09-1170. She said that 28 other states grant unemployment benefits to locked out workers, and that House Bill 09-1170 will encourage both sides in a labor dispute to reach a fair compromise. She said that since 1996 companies have teamed up together to negotiate contracts. She noted that House Bill 09-1170 includes employer protections as the result of a House amendment to the bill. She said that House Bill 09-1170 will restore balance to labor law in Colorado to the condition that it was in prior to 1999. She commented on "coordinated bargaining" on he part of employers.
|TIME: || 03:44:50 PM|
|MOTION:||Moved a prepared amendment to House Bill 09-1170, (Attachment A), L.011. The motion passed on a 3-1-1 roll call vote.|
Not Final YES: 3 NO: 1 EXC: 1 ABS: 0 FINAL ACTION: PASS
|TIME: || 03:45:42 PM|
|MOTION:||Moved that House Bill 09-1170 be referred to the Committee of the Whole, as amended. The motion passed on a 3-1-1 roll call vote.|
Final YES: 3 NO: 1 EXC: 1 ABS: 0 FINAL ACTION: PASS
The committee meeting adjourned.