Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon.
CREEL DOUGLASS, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.
The single limited issue in this case is whether strikers and their families may receive aid under the Public Assistance Code when the need for such aid arises solely and initially from participation in a strike arising out of a labor dispute. Such aid is now made available under the rules and regulations of the Department of Public Aid. The trial court found for the defendants and refused to enjoin the use of public funds for such payments. Plaintiff taxpayers appeal.
The controversy centers on the provisions of the Code that general assistance is available to "persons who for unavoidable causes are unable to maintain a decent and healthful standard of living" further restricted by the proviso that "any employable person who refuses suitable employment or training for self-support work shall not receive general assistance." Ill Rev Stats c 23, § 401 (1963). We focus our attention on the words "unavoidable causes" and "suitable employment and training." Plaintiffs' principal thrust is that need arising initially and solely from the status of striker is voluntarily assumed either through participation or acquiescence and is thus not for "unavoidable causes."
Also under fire is the provision for aid to dependent children as defined in the Code restricted as follows:
". . . If the parent or parents refuse without good cause, as defined by rule and regulation of the State Department, to accept employment in which he or they are able to engage, which is offered through the public employment offices, or refuse any other bona fide offer of suitable employment, as defined by rule and regulation of the State Department, family assistance granted the child and his family shall be terminated for as long as the parent or parents refuse the offered employment." Ill Rev Stats c 23, § 605.3 (1965).
Plaintiffs contend that the words "without good cause" means a cause not voluntarily assumed through participation or acquiescence in a strike.
The payments now attacked have been made for some fifteen years last past. Plaintiffs contend that this is contrary to the announced policy of our State to remain neutral in labor disputes, Buchholz v. Cummins, 6 Ill.2d 382, 128 N.E.2d 900, and the refusal of the legislature to finance strikes out of public funds. Local Union No. 11 v. Gordon, 396 Ill. 293, 71 N.E.2d 637. Both of these cases were considering our statute relating to unemployment compensation. Ill Rev Stats c 48, ¶ 300 (1965). Section 604 of that Act [¶ 434 of the statute] provides:
"An individual shall be ineligible for benefits for any week with respect to which it is found that his total or partial unemployment is due to a stoppage of work which exists because of a labor dispute at the factory, establishment or other premises at which he is or was last employed. . . ."
American Steel Foundries v. Gordon, 404 Ill. 174, 88 N.E.2d 465, held that a labor dispute includes a strike; that one who strikes becomes voluntarily unemployed; that where two weeks were required after the strike was settled to fire the furnaces and resume work such unemployment was, nevertheless, a necessary consequence of the strike; that during such two weeks they were not involuntarily unemployed and were not entitled to compensation for such two weeks even though ready and willing to resume work. Thus, both the legislature and the Supreme Court have spoken unequivocally so far as unemployment compensation to strikers is concerned.
It is urged that like results should obtain under the Public Assistance Code. Otherwise, it is urged, the State violates its neutrality in labor disputes, utilizes the public revenue to finance striking laborers and grants to striking laborers and their families under the Public Assistance Code financial assistance which has been denied them under Unemployment Compensation. Thus, the restrictive provisions which deny compensation to striking laborers are, in effect and in fact, reduced to a porous shell. Such a conclusion, we think, stems from an astigmatic view of the nature and purpose of the two legislative enactments. Compensation is generated through lack of work with economic need purely incidental thereto. Assistance is triggered by economic need with lack of suitable work incidental thereto. Whether they should, might or could be controlled by the same principles is not before us. The issue is whether or not the legislature can be said to have so treated them. We think not.
Plaintiffs argue that it is indeed anomalous to hold that a striker is voluntarily unemployed and ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits and, at the same time, hold that he is out of work due to "unavoidable cause" and thus eligible for general assistance benefits. Such patently inconsistent intent should not be charged to our legislators, it is said. If an anomaly does exist, it would appear that it is now about sixteen years old. In practice it has resulted in a denial of unemployment compensation to strikers and the allowance of aid to striking employees and their families under the Public Assistance Code. It seems hardly conceivable that this was not known to our legislators. They did nothing. Late in the 73rd General Assembly, Senate Bill 358 passed the Senate and was sent to the House incorporating into the Public Assistance Code the basically same provisions as to strikers which are in the Unemployment Compensation Act. Either for lack of time or insufficient votes or pure indifference and for our purposes at this point it makes no difference the bill did not pass. If the Public Assistance Code as it now exists denies payments to strikers and their families, no amendments are necessary. If the legislature felt that such payments should be specifically denied and it knew or should have known that administratively they weren't being denied it either failed or refused to say so. Devoid of legislative capacity, we see no reason for us to do a remodeling job when it would seem that the legislature likes the structure as it is and as it is being administered now. The Unemployment Compensation Act suggests that the legislature knows what language to use to specifically express its intention.
The present policy was generated by an unpublished opinion of the Attorney General to the State's Attorney of Will County dated May 5, 1950, in which he said:
". . . It is my opinion that subject to the approval of the Illinois Public Aid Commission, if otherwise eligible, a person `in need' due to `unavoidable causes,' is entitled to receive Public Assistance, even ...