Posted: Friday, September 7th 2012 at 6:18am
Ga. labor official defies unemployment policy
By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) A state labor official is refusing to restart jobless benefits to seasonally unemployed teachers and bus drivers, setting up a showdown between state and federal officials.
Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday that the administration in Washington is "over-stepping their bounds" in regards to unemployment.
"This is really a states' rights issue. The administration is really over-stepping their bounds," Butler said. "We will not back down from something we feel right about. We have the authority to write laws when it comes to unemployment."
A spokesman says the U.S. Department of Labor is reviewing Georgia's "new legal position." Washington threatened to cut millions of dollars sent annually to Georgia to administer the unemployment program, unless the state relented and resumed the payments.
"We hope that Commissioner Butler can see how much pain and suffering his misinterpretation of the law is causing for so many families throughout the state of Georgia," Charlie Flemming, president of the Georgia State AFL-CIO, said in a statement.
The commissioner estimates 3,500 to 4,000 bus drivers, pre-k teachers, landscapers, janitors, crossing guards and other contractually employed Georgians have filed or will file claims. Seasonal workers, who didn't apply for benefits yet may be eligible retroactively, could swell the rolls.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics labeled 64,702 Georgians as private "educational service" workers last September, a category that includes teachers, assistants and other educators employed by private companies on contracts for public schools and universities.
U.S. labor officials have threatened to slash some or all the money Georgia gets to cover administrative costs of the unemployment benefits program. That amount was $72 million in 2011.
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