Tester Aims to Hold Corporations Accountable During Labor Disputes, Ensure Workers Keep Benefits

Senator’s bills would eliminate corporate tax breaks and retain employee health care during labor lockouts

(U.S. Senate) – On behalf of Montana workers, U.S. Senator Jon Tester has introduced two bills to hold corporations accountable during labor lockouts and protect employee benefits during negotiations.

Tester recently reintroduced his Prohibiting Incentives for Corporations that Kickout Employees Tax (PICKET) Act, a bill he drafted following the labor lockout in Three Forks last lall. That lockout left nearly 40 Talc Mill employees out of work for almost 3 months during labor negotiations with the French company Imerys. Tester’s bill would eliminate tax breaks, deductions, and credits for corporations that lock out their workers during labor disputes.

“Corporations shouldn’t be able to cash in on tax breaks while their workers are locked out,” Tester said. “The whole reason we give companies these tax incentives in the first place is so they can create good-paying jobs. So if a company is preventing their employees from putting in an honest day’s work, they shouldn’t be able to take those taxpayer-funded credits and deductions.”

The PICKET Act increases the tax rate on corporations by 14 percent for an entire taxable year when they lock out workers during a labor dispute, forcing them to pay the 35 percent corporate tax rate that was in place before Trump’s disastrous 2017 tax bill. Tester’s bill also prevents corporations from deducting wages and benefits for any temporary workers during lockouts and stops them from receiving tax credits for certain replacement workers.

Tester also introduced legislation requiring companies to continue providing health care benefits to their employees who are on family or medical leave during a lockout. Tester drafted the bill after Jim Spurger, one of the locked-out workers in Three Forks, and his wife, Becky, were forced to pay out of pocket for her cancer treatment because their health care benefits were terminated during the lockout.

“Axing employee health insurance because of a labor dispute is unacceptable,” Tester said. “When corporations risk peoples’ lives for the sake of making an extra buck, the drive for profit has gone too far. Folks like Jim and Becky need a guarantee that their health coverage is secure.”

Tester’s bill closes a loophole in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to ensure workers who are on job-protected leave when a lockout occurs continue receiving health care benefits through the duration of their planned leave.

Tester has been a champion for Montana workers in the Senate. He was the only member of Montana’s delegation to picket alongside the Talc Mill employees in Three Forks and he slammed the Supreme Court’s ruling that weakened the collective bargaining rights of unions last year. Tester has a lifetime score of 92 percent from the AFL-CIO, the highest of Montana’s Congressional delegation by far.