After weeks of waiting and at a time when the majority of the State has directed their focus on Brownback’s catastrophic tax plan and the infighting between republican legislators, Sen. Susan Wagle finally called a conference committee on SB 416 this morning.
As a quick refresher: Senate Bill 416 started out as a completely noncontroversial bill but now is now a combination of several anti-worker pieces of legislation. SB 416 as amended, by suggestion of Sec. Brownlee, now allows the Department of Labor to leave workers high and dry if their employer challenges unpaid wage claims in court. The bill now contains the contents of SB 355 and HB 2638 as explained below.
Senate Bill 355 deletes language in the Wage Payment Act that requires the Secretary to appeal a wage payment decision on behalf of an employee if the wage payment was under $10K, which they are currently required to do. This will unnecessarily force workers who have been denied wages to obtain their own representation or go through the process on their own if they want to appeal a decision. It also deletes language that allows the Department’s Division of Industrial Safety and Health to inspect private company worksites for safety and health hazards,.
House Bill 2638 includes provisions that deal with lump sum payments or severance pay in the calculation of UI benefits. Under the bill an employee who separates with a lump sum payment for accrued sick or annual leave or remaining vacation time for example would have their UI benefits delayed as a result. So if you get a lump sum payout when you are laid off – regardless if that payout is for wages already earned – your unemployment benefits would be held back. The bill also lowers employer contributions to the UI Trust Fund at a time when the State is borrowing money from the Federal Government (and paying interest on it) to pay the State’s current benefit claims. The bill also abolishes the Employment Security Advisory Council which was created to advise the Secretary on changes to Employment Security Law and gave labor and business a seat at the table when changes, such as the ones detailed in this bill, were brought forward. Sec. Brownlee has never called a meeting for this council and therefore has decided no future Secretary of Labor should have such a resource available to them either.
And as if SB 416 wasn’t bad enough for Kansas workers already this morning the committee showed every attention of loading up the bill in conference committee with multiple anti-labor bills that have been preventing from passing earlier in the session. All of this is happening at the urging of Sec. Brownlee, just proving that the Kansas Department of Labor has not only failed to represent any workers since the day she took office but has completely turn it’s back on the hard working Kansas families in our state.
Below are the potential additions to SB 416 in conference as indicated this morning by the conference committee.
HB 2531 makes changes to the selection process for Workers Comp Appeals Board judges and Employment Review Board members (Employment Review Board hears unemployment compensation appeals). Currently, members of these boards are nominated by a two-member committee representing both labor and industry. The process is balanced and has worked well since 1993. HB 2531 changes this process to establish a 7-member commission heavily stacked towards business interests. The bill doesn’t even have the appearance of being fair.
- THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT THIS IS RAW POLITICS WITH NO SEMBLANCE OF FAIRNESS.
- WORKING FAMILIES SHOULD NOT HAVE THEIR LEGAL DISPUTES DECIDED BY JUDGES BEHOLDEN TO THE CHAMBER AND INSURANCE COMPANIES.