WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Pennsylvania U.S. Senator John Fetterman, with Reps. Alma Adams (D-NC) and Greg Casar (D-TX), introduced the Food Secure Strikers Act of 2023, legislation to allow striking workers to qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
The introduction of this bill comes as several high-profile strikes are currently taking place in Pennsylvania and across the country. Right now, workers with United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Local 506 & 618 at Wabtec in Erie; workers with Communications Workers of America at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; and workers with the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild nationwide are all on strike.
“Every union worker who is walking the picket line this summer needs to know that we have their back here in Washington,” said Sen. Fetterman. “The union way of life is sacred. It’s what built Pennsylvania and this nation. It is critical for us to protect workers’ right to organize, and that includes making sure they and their families have the resources to support themselves while on strike. As Chair of the Nutrition Subcommittee and an advocate for the union way of life, this bill is just plain common sense. I’m proud to introduce this bill that will eliminate the need for workers to choose between fighting for fair working conditions and putting food on the table for their families.”
Currently, striking workers and their households are excluded from SNAP eligibility and cannot receive SNAP benefits unless they were previously eligible before the strike. While union funds can sometimes reduce the financial stress of striking, workers often still face serious financial insecurity when on strike due to loss of income. Further, many striking workers are not union members, meaning they have an even smaller safety net, if any at all. The Food Secure Strikers Act of 2023 would repeal the restriction on striking workers from receiving SNAP.
In the Senate, the bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The Food Secure Strikers Act is also endorsed by numerous unions and anti-hunger organizations, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, Teamsters, National Education Association, Communications Workers of America, Food Research Action Center, and Hunger-Free America.
“No one in the United States should go hungry, especially for exercising rights guaranteed by law. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in leading the Food Secure Strikers Act,” said Rep. Adams. “This bill ensures striking workers receive SNAP benefits they are entitled to, and makes sure strikers and their families are not discriminated against. Strong labor protections and fair pay are the best defense against food insecurity, and we can’t forget we have the labor movement to thank for that progress. I am grateful to partner with my House colleagues and Senator Fetterman on this legislation at a critical moment for striking workers.”
“We need to get rid of the anti-union provisions in our code that starve striking workers,” said Rep. Casar. “We’re seeing workers exercise their rights across the country by going on strike to demand better wages and working conditions. That’s why our bill, the Food Secure Strikers Act, is more important now than ever. We need to stop starving strikers, and ensure all working families are able to make ends meet.”
“No worker should go hungry for exercising their right to strike for better wages and safer workplaces,” said Sen. Booker. “We are in a historic moment for worker power, and we must remain united in our support of workers’ well-being as they continue to fight for better conditions. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation that will ensure striking workers and their families have access to food assistance, so all workers have the ability to fight for a more equitable workplace.”
“Any union worker knows, strikes are always a last resort. Workers want to reach a fair agreement, so they can keep going to work and providing for their families. Workers almost never recover all the lost wages from a strike. But sometimes it’s the only option,” said Sen. Brown. “Our bill would give workers the peace of mind that if they’re backed into a corner, they can stand up to corporate abuse, without the fear of losing their ability to put food on the table.”
“When workers make the difficult decision to strike, they are often doing so for fairer wages and benefits because they cannot afford to live and raise their families. Often times, employers believe they can wait out workers who struggle financially to lure them into a worse agreement,” Sen. Casey said. “Workers shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and a fair deal—that’s why I’m cosponsoring the Food Secure Strikers Act.”
“For too long, workers who are striking have risked losing access to their essential SNAP benefits,” said Sen. Padilla. “Our workers shouldn’t have to choose between fighting to improve their working conditions and putting food on the table. As food costs rise for families in California and across the nation, we must pass the Food Secure Strikers Act to protect the health and well-being of our workers.”
“Union workers are the backbone of our economy. When they join together to advocate for themselves, they are also fighting for fair wages and better working conditions for every hard-working American. We should support them in their fight for a stronger middle class,” said Sen. Smith. “The Food Secure Strikers Act of 2023 is one important way we can do just that. No worker should have to choose between fighting for better working conditions and keeping food on their table.”
“Standing up for fair wages and benefits shouldn’t mean going hungry,” said Sen. Warren. “I am glad to cosponsor the Food Secure Strikers Act with Senator Fetterman to support workers across the country and ensure SNAP benefits for striking workers and their families.”
“Workers deserve the chance to call for better compensation and conditions, without worrying about how they’ll make ends meet during a strike,” said Sen. Welch. “The Food Secure Strikers Act will help striking workers put food on the table, so they can continue to push for the conditions and benefits they deserve. I’m proud to join Sen. Fetterman and other colleagues to support this pro-labor legislation.”
“Workers fighting for a fair wage should be able to feed their families— and that includes being eligible for food assistance,” said Sen. Wyden. “Excluding workers on strike from food aid is outrageous and just morally wrong. That’s why I will fight hard in the Senate to repeal this restriction and ensure families walking the picket line are fed. I’m all in to get the Food Secure Strikers Act signed into law.”
“It’s good to see lawmakers attempting to correct the wrongs of the past by reinstating a benefit for striking workers that never should have been taken away in the first place,” said Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien. “Congress should never pass laws that punish American workers and hopefully this amendment is a repudiation of that practice.”
“When workers make the incredibly difficult decision to go on strike, they should not have to worry about lack of access to basic nutrition. While support from a union and the community can help alleviate the financial strain workers may face, it is not always enough,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “That is why UFCW is proud to support Sen. Fetterman, Rep. Adams, and Rep. Casar’s Food Secure Strikers Act of 2023. This legislation would ensure that any income-eligible household can access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program regardless of whether a member of that household is involved in a strike. Now more than ever, we must protect workers who are standing together to improve their working conditions and build the better life they have earned and deserve.”
“Workers who make the difficult decision to go on strike are coming together to lift the standard of living and gain more respect for all working people,” said Becky Pringle, President of the National Education Association. “They are prepared to make sacrifices—but going hungry should not be one of them. The Food Secure Strikers Act of 2023 will help ensure that when striking workers stand in solidarity for better working conditions and wages they can receive SNAP benefits so they don’t put themselves and their families at risk.”
“We made massive sacrifices to help automakers get back on their feet, and now GM is reporting record profits yet won’t share it with the workers who produced their wealth,” said Azim Hawkins, UAW Local 2177, 2nd Shift Committeeman, Philadelphia CCA. “Making the decision to go on strike in solidarity with my co-workers is a hard decision already, but to know Senator Fetterman has our back and wants to ensure our families don’t have to starve because I’m standing up for what my co-workers and I deserve, gives me strength and hope.”
Senator Fetterman is an adamant supporter of organized labor and regularly advocates for the union way of life. He also chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics, and Research, which deals with SNAP and other food security programs. This legislation is a convergence of two major issues Senator Fetterman is championing for working people.
The Food Secure Strikers Act would:
- Repeal the restriction on striking workers from receiving SNAP and affirmatively protect the eligibility of striking workers to receive SNAP;
- Protect public sector workers who are fired for striking from being “considered to have voluntarily quit” for eligibility purposes; and;
- Clarify that any income-eligible household can receive SNAP benefits regardless of if a member of that household is involved in a strike.