Washington debates unemployment aid for striking workers

Jan 11, 2024
Written by WR Communications

Washington state legislators are currently reviewing House Bill 5777, a proposal that could extend unemployment benefits to workers involved in strikes, particularly when faced with employer lockouts. This move follows a year marked by significant strikes across the nation, with Washington experiencing its fair share.

The bill, which has garnered substantial support from over 200 individuals at a recent hearing, is backed by various labor unions. Notable supporters include Starbucks Workers United and United Auto Workers. Senator Karen Keiser, a bill sponsor and SAG-AFTRA member, has been a vocal advocate, drawing on similar legislative efforts in California.

However, the proposal has met with concerns from industry representatives. Bruce Beckett of the Washington Retail Association highlighted the potential financial implications for businesses. “The bill, as it’s designed now, could dramatically increase the cost of benefits in a way that impacts every Washington employer,” Beckett stated. He further emphasized the broader economic repercussions, noting, “Those costs are socialized.”

Proponents like Brenda Wiest from Teamsters 117 counter these concerns by pointing out the minimal impact on the state’s unemployment trust fund, arguing the financial security for workers outweighs the cost.

The debate in Washington mirrors a growing national trend. New York has long provided unemployment benefits to striking workers, and other states like New Jersey and Maine are exploring similar policies. This shift reflects an increasing awareness of the financial challenges faced by workers during strikes.

Read the full article on Washington State Standard0


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