Georgia defies U.S. on Seasonal Workers

Well – here’s an extra lil morning read to ease into your Friday…

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler is defying Washington by refusing to restart jobless benefits to seasonally unemployed teachers and bus drivers, setting up a showdown between state and federal officials.

“This is really a states’ rights issue. The administration is really over-stepping their bounds,” Butler said Thursday. “We will not back down from something we feel right about. We have the authority to write laws when it comes to unemployment.”

Butler and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, who concurs with the Labor commissioner’s interpretation, vow to carry the fight to Washington.

The U.S. Department of Labor is “reviewing Georgia’s new legal position,” a spokesman said without elaboration. Washington officials earlier threatened to cut millions of dollars sent annually to Georgia to administer the unemployment program unless the state relented and resumed the payments.

He makes a good point:

School workers, who are usually re-hired in the fall, aren’t technically considered laid-off – the main criterion to receive jobless benefits.   …

He said public school teachers and private pre-k administrators complained last year that the seasonally jobless were receiving benefits unfairly. Pre-k schools are on the hook for additional unemployment insurance costs if a worker files for benefits.

Anyone else hear the “Yeah c’mon” of the states’ rights folks?  

“It would be very irresponsible for them to do that,” Butler said. “It’s a pretty serious issue if the states just let the federal government tell us what to do all the time. We’re not trying to pick a fight here. We’re just trying to govern Georgia the way Georgians want us to govern.”



  1. griftdrift says:

    Butler’s right.

    Someone splash some water on Hassinger’s face.

    The problem is the statute’s governing unemployment for season workers is not really that rigid. Under certain circumstances, the seasonally unemployed can get unemployment insurance benefits, but ultimately the determinant in disbursing the insurance is based on whether the condition was present at the time of hiring. In the case of teachers and other school workers, it certainly was.

    It’s really a matter of interpretation and I think Butler’s within the bounds of interpretation. The problem is it has been interpreted the other way for years, through both Democratic and Republican administrations.

    And threats from the Feds ( very real and serious by the way ) and states rights sabre rattling ( more metaphorical sabre rattling) are not helping.

    They’re all bowed up now but a reasonable way out will likely be found.

    • Calypso says:

      Perhaps a clean way to handle it (at least in the future) would be for these folks to sign a contract (assuming they do now) and have it cover 12 months, with their pay spread over those 12 months, yet include the proviso that they do not report for work in June and July, or whatever period of time they’re not needed to be on the job.

      I’m not a labor lawyer. And I’m fond of neither labor nor lawyers.

  2. xdog says:

    “Butler . . . says it’s unfair for contractual workers to receive the benefits when public school system employees do not . . . ”

    Don’t public school employees working 9 months get paid on 12 month basis?

    “Georgia owes Washington roughly $740 million for jobless assistance borrowed during the recession.”

    The state is just trying to save money by screwing some of the weakest of its citizens. Nothing new there.

    • “Georgia owes Washington roughly $740 million for jobless assistance borrowed during the recession.”
      What’s the interest rate on the money being paid back? ‘Cuz I don’t think you can say it’s the STATE that’s ‘screwing some of the weakest of its citizens.’

      • xdog says:

        No idea what the interest rate is. No idea what that has to do with anything.

        My point was twofold: state needs money, state takes course of least resistance. You don’t really think cafeteria workers and bus drivers have any political pull, do you? (I don’t know why private school teachers are included.)

        • The interest rate that Georgia has to repay the federal government is 3.96%. The current federal discount rate is 0.75%, which means that banks can borrow money more than 3x cheaper than the state of Georgia can.

          My point was that if the interest rate on the borrowed funds was lower, Georgia might not have had to make the decision about seasonal workers being eligible for UI payments.

          That said, the jobs are seasonal, and the question of whether or not they should be eligible for UI benefits still hasn’t been answered.

  3. Harry says:

    Why in heaven’s name must such administrative decisions be dictated at the federal level? What ever happened to the Tenth Amendment?

  4. novicegirl says:

    From a policy standpoint, “insurance” by definition, is money dedicated to uncertain liabilities or loss of revenue. The minute it’s predetermined someone will be collecting unemployment insurance it becomes certain and stops being insurance; becoming government assistance, a subsidy, welfare or a tax credit (pick your flavor).

    I’ve read a lot of interviews with some of these workers and the comments are usually like this: “How would you like to have a low-paying job like a bus driver and not be able to feed your kids in the summer?” They are forgetting that there is an alternative to collecting government assistance, during the summer months, for your entire career. You can get a job. Right off the top of my head there are a bunch of seasonal jobs, such as Six Flags, swimming pools and water parks; and there are others that can be made seasonal, such as residential painting, window cleaning and blacktop sealing.

  5. Dave Emanuel says:

    Some time ago, I wrote “The Doctrine of Associated Irrelevance” in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek effort to assist conservatives in understanding liberal commentary. However, it looks like that doctrine applies here. The core issue isn’t whether or not seasonal workers “deserve” to receive unemployment benefits, or whether insurance becomes government assistance, (a very good point, by the way) but the maintenance of states rights and governing authority. For years, the federal government has been blackmailing states to comply with federal mandates through the threat of withholding federal payments. The unemployment issue referenced here is just another chapter in that book. It’s high time Georgia and other states sent the federal blackmailers packing.

  6. SallyForth says:

    Sally forth, Butler! This has been a pet peeve of mine since forever. Teacher pay is put into the state and local budget as an annual amount, as are their insurance, retirement, etc. Nowhere is it called a part-time or seasonal job, and to the contrary teachers all yell that they are overworked and not paid enough (which is debatable for another thread). The average annual salary of a Georgia teacher is $52,800 – great pay with all those months of time off, during which some actually take temporary jobs for additional incomes, or just travel Europe if they so choose.

    They organize into an “association” and pay lobbyists to get ever-increasing pay and benefits, while Johnny still is not learning, and Georgia’s student testing and graduation rates stink.

    Everybody knows that they get every holiday known to man, months of vacation in the summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas – New Years, Easter. And let’s not forget all those “teacher workdays.” These have always been perks of the job. I totally blew my stack when I learned that they were all being paid by the Labor Dept. during all that vacation time, while truly unemployed people have their payments cut or ended. This is just flat-out wrong. God speed, Mark Butler.

    • Calypso says:

      Sorry SallyForth, you are incorrect. Perhaps my comment will save you from apoplexy. I can assure you without a doubt that public school teachers receive absolutely zero dollars during the summer, vacations, breaks, etc., from the Dept. of Labor in the form of unemployment compensation. The contract is, as you said, for 12 months and the salary is divided amongst those 12 months. Any other income a public school teacher receives would be in the form of a second, or summer, job at Six Flags or wherever.

      There, now don’t you feel better already?

      • SallyForth says:

        I’m not sure, Calypso – I still have heartburn about this topic. (But I’m really proud of you figuring out how to do that bolding thing! 🙂 )

        I always believed that thing about the salary being divided into 12 months, until a public school teacher friend told me a couple of years ago that they receive unemployment checks when school is out, as “seasonal workers.” I don’t think he was smoking dope when he talked about that, feel reasonably sure he is believable, and another friend who teaches at a private school said the same thing.

        Plus, if the DOL is not plunking out bucks to teachers as seasonal workers when school is out, why would Butler be “refusing to restart jobless benefits to seasonally unemployed teachers”?

        • taylor says:

          The teachers referred to in the debate are private school teachers.

          “For years, thousands of Georgia bus drivers, cafeteria workers, private school teachers and others had received jobless benefits during the summer when school is out.”

          Public school teachers do not receive unemployment checks. That was one thing that Butler cited when initially cutting off the benefits to private school employees.

          • Calypso says:

            Sally, taylor is correct. Rest your mind and heart, public school teachers receive nothing from the DoL in the way of unemployment compensation during summer, breaks, etc.

            Your friend was either pulling your leg or somehow the communication was garbled between the two of you.

            I have two Georgia public school teachers in my immediate family, and I know whereof I speak. Whatever may have been happening with private school teachers I can not address, other than what the article says.

              • bowersville says:

                Public school teachers and simple math. 12 month contract, 12 months of pay checks. No unemployment check.

                (Unless the teachers union demands it…insert donkey bray here.)

              • Calypso says:

                Yes, Harry, they continue to receive their normal paycheck during the summer break. In most Georgia systems, they are contracted to teach students 180 days, and an additional 10 days they are required to be at school for pre-planning, which includes days before the school year begins, various teacher workdays throughout the school year when the students are not present, and post-planing, for a total of 190 days of contracted work per year.

                Due to reduced funding, most systems have used furlough days to reduce the contract from 190 to 185 days or so (no pay for the fewer 5 days).

                For the sake of simple math, let’s say the contract to work those 185 days is $48,000. The teacher will receive 12 monthly paychecks of $4,000 (minus withholding, taxes, etc.), even though they are not at the school building during June and July.

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