A bill moving in the Legislature, Senate Bill 5777, would pay unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to workers who choose to go on strike. The companion bill in the House is House Bill 1893.
The unemployment insurance program in Washington state is socialized and funded with a payroll-based tax on Washington state employers. It is set up to provide financial assistance to employees who lose work through no fault of their own.
The idea is that the risk of involuntary unemployment is shared throughout the workforce. Since no one knows who may lose a job through business closures or job reductions, a state-managed pool provides financial support when workers lose their jobs unexpectedly. State unemployment benefits cover for temporarily lost income until an unemployed person can find work again.
Striking workers are disqualified from collecting UI benefits because their decision to not work is voluntary. A strike is planned. It is not the result of unforeseen or unexpected economic forces that an individual cannot control. The proposed legislation would remove the disqualification.
There is already an exemption from that disqualification for workers who are “not participating in or financing or directly interested in the strike or lockout that caused the individual’s unemployment; and the individual does not belong to a grade or class of workers of which, immediately before the commencement of the strike or lockout, there were members employed at the premises at which the strike or lockout occurs, any of whom are participating in or financing or directly interested in the strike or lockout.”
A fiscal note has been requested to estimate how much this change to the program would cost the unemployment insurance fund supported by all employers in the state.
- SB 5777 would pay unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to workers who decide to go on strike.
- The companion bill for SB 5777 is House Bill 1893.
- Currently, the unemployment benefit program is designed to mitigate personal financial impacts by providing payments to workers who lose employment through no fault of their own.
- The proposed legislation would change the program so that, for the first time, money is paid to people who stop working voluntarily.
- The UI program is socialized and funded by a tax on Washington state employers.
- Under SB 5777, even companies with good labor relations would be penalized by a more costly UI system. In turn, workers who like their jobs and want to work would be financially punished for other workers’ decisions not to work.
- Paying UI benefits to workers who choose not to work would change a popular “insurance” program into a “strike fund” for organized labor.