Politicizing Unemployment

Community Organizing COVID-19 Economics Financial Justice

  Marble Falls     I stumbled on a surprising item in the Washington Post.  A handful of states have carved out exceptions for workers voluntarily leaving their jobs because they are refusing employer compliance with the vaccine mandate.  These deep red states want these anti-vax protestors to get unemployment.  I could hardly believe my eyes, but seeing is believing as they wrote that …

Workers who quit or are fired for cause — including for defying company policy — are generally ineligible for jobless benefits. But Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee have carved out exceptions for those who won’t submit to the multi-shot coronavirus vaccine regimens that many companies now require. Similar ideas have been floated in Wyoming, Wisconsin and Missouri.

In Wisconsin the effort was vetoed by a Democratic governor, but was pushed along by a Democratic governor in Kansas.  Wyoming and Missouri are still in the “thinking” stage before their legislature meets in 2022.  And, strange bedfellow times, business groups and chambers of commerce outfits have been opposing this carve out, because they know it increases the costs for the business in their “experience” rates.

            Of course, business outfits also actually want workers to come to work and obey the bosses and the rules, so their position is consistent with their usual interests.  Many of them also know first hand that they are short of workers because of the virus and the so-called Great Resignation, where workers in a silent strike are leaving to look for something better.  The huge contradiction here is that many of these states are the same ones that only wee months ago were cutting off expanded unemployment for workers that was offered by the Biden administration in a quixotic and ultimately unsuccessful effort to try and force people to go back to work.  Now they are helping them leave work.  Welcome to the Emerson’s “hobgoblin of little minds.”

            It’s on though!  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  Let’s open the floodgates and use this as a reason, or at least an excuse, to expand unemployment benefits.  States make the rules.  Some for example allow unemployment benefits for striking workers.  If vaccine mandate strikers can get unemployment, then why not workers striking for more rights and benefits?  Let’s make this benefit across the country, red states and blue.

            Speaking of red states, if they are going to pay vaccine strikers, they also should provide unemployment benefits to the young women that they are trying to force to have babies by denying them the choice to have an abortion.  It would seem the least that they could do.

            Maybe there’s an equal protection argument that these red state workers could make as well, if they could find a lawyer.  Why should one set of workers be able to get unemployment when they don’t follow the bosses’ rules, and other workers who voluntarily leave their jobs because they object to company rules not be eligible for unemployment benefits?  That doesn’t seem to be equal protection within states that accord such rights.

            We’re opening a door that could be hard for them to close later.  In fact, speaking of strange bedfellows, the Post quotes an unemployment benefits expert for a conservative libertarian group saying, “…he thinks state legislatures and the federal government should expand benefits for a broader group of individuals rather than just the unvaccinated.”  He even noted that families and children shouldn’t suffer because someone was “between jobs” and that seemed “extreme” to him.

            Exactly, my new brother, right on!