Rapid Response Info Alert: West Virginia Steelworkers, Unemployment Benefits Could Once Again Be Under Attack.

Workers who find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own are often thrust into an unfamiliar reality. Paying the utilities and keeping food on the table become a real threat to them and their family’s security. Decades ago workers fought for, and won, benefits which provide some financial stability during times of unemployment. These benefits, known as Unemployment Insurance, temporarily replace about half of a worker’s previous wages up to a maximum benefit amount. They can be a lifeline to workers and the families that depend on them.

For the last two years, our union and our allies have fought diligently to defeat a harmful piece of legislation that makes drastic changes to Unemployment Insurance and threatens the security of every worker in the state. We have been successful, but we are seeing the writing on the wall that similar legislation will be pushed again in the next legislative session.

Currently, West Virginia does not have a maximum duration of time that a person is eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Instead, it uses a maximum benefit amount to determine how much a worker can receive per year. Legislation introduced previously attempted to amend the West Virginia state code by:

  • Limiting benefits to a duration of 12 weeks if the unemployment rate (UR) is at/below 5.5%.
  • Restricting benefits to an additional week for each .5% increment increase in state’s UR above 5.5%, and making 20 weeks the maximum duration of benefits if state’s UR exceed 9%.
  • Reducing the maximum benefit for each wage class from 26 to 20 times the weekly benefit rate.

In a state like West Virginia, that has had historically high unemployment numbers due to extenuating circumstances affecting the state’s main industries, a bill that slashes these benefits is especially harmful. We know this fight could be a difficult one next time around so we need your voices. Keep an eye on your inbox for ways you can get involved to stop any efforts to cut benefits so we provide West Virginia’s workers the security they deserve.

Larry R. Ray, Director District 8

For additional questions about this issue or ways to get involved in Rapid Response, contact Chad Conley, USW District 8 Rapid Response Coordinator, at (606)465-6862 or cconley@usw.org.

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United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222