Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’
Saturday, January 11th, 2014
Vickey Tyson, an SEIU Local 517Mmember in Saginaw, Michigan, knows firsthand about the stresses of today’s job market and the critical difference the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) can make.
Until late 2012, Vickey worked as customer service representative for the Michigan unemployment claims agency. But like many other Michiganders, she lost her job due to state cutbacks and layoffs. And the sudden expiration of modest federal unemployment benefits on December 28, 2013 pulled the rug out from beneath 1.3 million Americans just like Vickey.
She traveled to Washington, DC this week to stand with President Obama during his January 7 address where he called on Congress to extend the federal EUC program, which serves as a lifeline for long-term unemployed workers. Like the President, Vickey knows that it is not too late to fix this. Congress can take swift action to restore emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. We should not be making it harder for Americans to work and participate in society. Extending these benefits is the right thing to do for America’s jobless and the economy.
This article was originally printed on SEIU on January 10, 2014. Reprinted with permission.
Author: Courtney-Rose Dantus
Saturday, August 17th, 2013
Thanks to a developing line of administrative appeal decisions, workers in New York State who resign their jobs due to bullying and employer abuse could still retain eligibility for unemployment benefits.
Under New York State labor law, workers who voluntarily resign without good cause are presumptively ineligible to receive unemployment benefits. Most other states follow a similar rule. Of course, this frequently leaves targets of workplace bullying in a bind when it comes to qualifying for unemployment benefits. All too often, quitting is the only way to escape the abuse.
That’s why I was so pleased to hear from James Williams, an attorney with Legal Services of Central New York, who sent news of a recent decision in a case he argued before the New York Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board.
The claimant appealed a denial of unemployment benefits holding that he voluntarily resigned his job with a local government entity, without good cause. The Administrative Law Judge overruled the denial of benefits, rendering these findings and a decision:
The undisputed credible evidence establishes that the claimant left employment voluntarily . . . after being notified . . . that he was on probation, because he felt bullied, harassed and set up by his supervisor. I credit the claimant’s credible sworn testimony that his supervisor’s repeated criticism and scolding of him in a raised voice made him feel bullied and harassed, especially in the presence of other employees. I further credit the claimant’s credible sworn testimony that the supervisor’s actions including pointing and reprimanding him, consisted of the word “stupid”, and other language which embarrassed the claimant and that the claimant believed he was being ridiculed by the supervisor. An employee is not obligated to subject himself to such behavior. Given that the claimant had complained to the employer about the supervisor’s behavior just two months earlier, and that the supervisor’s mistreatment not only continued, but escalated, I conclude that the claimant had good cause within the meaning of the unemployment insurance Law to quit when he did. Additionally, while disagreeing with a reprimand or criticism about work performance may not always constitute good cause to quit, receiving reprimands in the presence of one’s co-workers may be. . . . Under the circumstances herein, the supervisor’s treatment of the claimant exceeded the bounds of propriety, with the result that the claimant had good cause to quit. His unemployment ended under nondisqualifying conditions.
Attorney Williams relied upon previous decisions by the full Appeal Board holding that disrespectful and bullying-type behaviors that exceed the bounds of propriety (that appears to be the key phrase) may constitute good cause to voluntarily leave a job and thus not disqualify someone from receiving unemployment benefits. They may be accessed at the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board website:
- Appeal Board No. 571514 (July 3, 2013)
- Appeal Board No. 559667 (February 28, 2012)
- Appeal Board No. 558223 (January 25, 2012)
- Appeal Board No. 549810 (September 10, 2010)
Jim added in an e-mail that potential New York claimants who may fit this scenario “are advised to take steps to try and save their jobs prior to quitting. They will want to be able to show to the Department of Labor and to an ALJ that they took steps to try to change the situation – complaining to management, human resources, etc. – before quitting.”
Using These Decisions
The reasoning in these decisions is limited to unemployment benefits cases. Furthermore, the holdings of these cases are not binding upon unemployment benefits claims in other states. However, they can be brought to the attention of unemployment insurance agencies elsewhere as persuasive precedent.
In addition, this serves as an important lesson to those who may have been initially denied unemployment benefits after leaving a job due to bullying behaviors. It is not uncommon for initial denials to be reversed on appeal, and these cases provide genuine reason for optimism in situations involving abusive work environments.
This article originally appeared on Minding the Workplace on August 13, 2013. Reposted with permission.
About the Author: David Yamada is a tenured Professor of Law and Director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. He is an internationally recognized authority on the legal aspects of workplace bullying, and he is author of model anti-bullying legislation — dubbed the Healthy Workplace Bill — that has become the template for law reform efforts across the country. In addition to teaching at Suffolk, he holds numerous leadership positions in non-profit and policy advocacy organizations.
Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Among the many reasons the country would be better off if Bernie Sanders was president is that the man just refuses to deal in silliness. He wants the country to have a serious debate — and whether the next head of the Federal Reserve Board is a man or a woman, or the current president is more “comfortable” with one person or another running the Fed, is entirely irrelevant to Sanders. And, so, Sanders goes really wild — he invokes the two words that most people will not speak in this debate even though those two words are part of the Federal Reserve Board’s mission: FULL EMPLOYMENT.
Last week, I tried to suggest that the critical questions are not being asked in the discussion about who should run the Fed. Sanders can actually communicate with the guy in the White House, as he does in this letter. The entire letter is worth reading but this is the paragraph that almost made me cry (I’m desperate here, politically speaking):
The top priority of the Federal Reserve Board must be to fulfill its full employment mandate. When Wall Street was on the verge of collapse, the Federal Reserve acted boldly, aggressively, and with a fierce sense of urgency to save the financial system. We need a new Fed chair who will act with the same sense of urgency to combat the unemployment crisis in America today that has left 22 million Americans without a full time job. [the underline and bold is in the original]
There is a lot to learn from this short letter.
First, how many people know, as Sanders points out, that it is the Fed’s responsibility to bring about full employment?
Wait a second: who even talks about full employment anymore? Not the Congress (except for a handful of people…or maybe it’s only Sanders). Not the president. Not either of the two parties.
It’s seen as, well, quaint. We’ve now adjusted our attitude, thanks to the constant chatter of the transcribers of press releases (formerly known as “journalists”), so that we now think of under 7 percent unemployment as somehow “okay” and 6 percent unemployment as if everything is going great guns…with the millions of people out of work that those numbers represent.
But, reaching full employment is the Fed’s job. And Sanders, wacky guy that he is, actually wants someone in the position who understands that. Uh, good luck with that, Bernie.
Correctly, Sanders targets the Big Three. No, not the auto companies. The Big Three who were key architects in the financial crisis: Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers. Those guys had a mission: destroy regulation, let Wall Street run wild and make themselves and/or their friends rich along the way. To the president, who is out now talking about the divide between rich and poor, Bernie says: keep those turds away from the Fed (yes, he uses far more Senatorial language)
I got to have one quibble with Sanders, otherwise it will seem like hero worship (close). And that’s that he doesn’t call out in his letter the puppet master who laid the groundwork for this mess in the 1990s: Bill Clinton. Because it was the Big Dog himself who led the charge of the Big Three against Glass Steagall — which was the law that did not allow investment banking and commercial banking to mix.
But, if the world was right, and we had a serious political debate, Sanders’ letter would be driving policy the decision about who will be looking out for the interests of the people.
This article originally posted on Working Life on July 30, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Jonathan Tasini is a strategist, organizer, activist, commentator and writer, primarily focusing his energies on the topics of work, labor and the economy. On June 11, 2009, he announced that he would challenge New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary for the 2010 U.S. Senate special election in New York. However, Tasini later decided to run instead for a seat in the House of Representatives in 2010.
Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
Early this morning, fast food workers in New York, St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo. launched strikes demanding both a wage increase to $15 an hour—from a median of $8.94—and the right to form unions without employer interference.
Later this week, workers in Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit and Flint, Mich., will also go out on strike, expanding the reach of the movement of fast food workers (and, in Chicago, retail workers) that started with protests in New York and Chicago last year and grew into a series of one-day strikes throughout 2013. In Flint and Kansas City, strikes are taking place for the first time; in other cities, strikes will expand to target new franchises.
Organizers anticipate that thousands of fast food workers will join in the strikes, which coincide with heightened public awareness of wage stagnation and economic inequality. Some strikers may stay out longer than a single day.
The fast food strikes are part of a broader movement by low-wage workers for higher pay and union representation that has caught fire over the past year.
Targets include a range of employers, including Wal-Mart, federal subcontractors, warehouses, retail stores and car washes. Workers have typically formed loose local organizing committees that, with financial and logistical support from unions and community groups are growing into national networks, most prominently OUR Walmart.
This low-wage service and retail worker movement has tapped into a vein of discontent. But it has also created hopes for change through the fledgling campaign’s remarkable success with imaginative tactics.
“I’ve always dreamt about a moment like this,” says Terrance Wise, a 34-year old fast food worker and father of three in Kansas City. “But what am I going to do by myself? There’s strength in numbers. It’s a beautiful thing, a positive thing, that’s going to change this country. … My job should be a good job.”
Although he works long hours at his two part-time jobs—8 years at Burger King (now for $9.35 an hour) and 2 years at Pizza Hut (for $7.45)—and his wife also has a low-wage job as a home healthcare aide, Wise struggles to make ends meet. He recently lost his house to foreclosure and had to move in with relatives.
Overall conditions in the industry have not changed as a result of the movement, but some workers have won improvements. In Chicago, organizers say, workers at some McDonald’s and Macy’s locations received modest pay increases after the April strike. Dock worker Andrew Little, 26, said that managers raised pay from $9 to $11.26 an hour for him and his coworkers after they participated in the Chicago strike.
“I was honestly shocked,” he said. “We told ourselves it wouldn’t happen overnight. My first thought was the strike really did have an effect.” But Little remains focused on his “main goal”: to form a union. “We want both a raise and to sit down with management and talk about how we can better serve the store and the store can better serve us,” he says.
As happy as he is with his raise, he is especially pleased that no striker was fired or disciplined. “That’s the best part,” he said. Like other strikers, he returned to work accompanied by supporters—a dozen community representatives, clergy and organizers—who insisted that he should not suffer any retaliation. Workers have a real fear of being fired, Little says, but that can be prevented “if enough of us all stand up and demand respect.”
Not all employers responded positively, at least not at first. After strikes in St. Louis in May, some participating workers lost hours, pay, shifts or promised transfers, according to Jobs With Justice leader Rev. Martin Rafanan. But Jobs With Justice delegations went to the restaurants and talked with managers, corporate representatives or even, in one case, the corporate general counsel. “All of the cases were resolved in favor of the workers by the well-coordinated responses of community leaders,” he says.
There’s only one documented case of a striker being fired during this year’s wave of fast food job actions: Greg Reynoso, from a Brooklyn Domino’s. Fast Food Forward, the New York branch of the movement, responded by making his employer the first target of the current strike. On Friday, organizers report, 14 of 15 Domino’s delivery drivers did not show for work, effectively shutting down the operation on its busiest night. Meanwhile, roughly 60 supporters, including U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), gathered outside the Domino’s to protest Reynoso’s dismissal.
The actions come at a time when issues of inequality and the minimum wage have taken the national stage. President Obama is on tour giving high-profile speeches on economic inequality, and a Hart Research poll shows that 80 percent of the public supports the proposal by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.35 to $10.10 in three steps.
Fast-food workers’ poverty wages were spotlighted last week when everyone, from Stephen Colbert to The Atlantic, made sport of McDonald’s for unintentionally debunking its own claims that it provides a living wage. A model budget McDonald’s created for its workers recommended holding two jobs (which is tricky with fast-food jobs, which require workers to be available on-call) and included nothing for heating, far less for health insurance than the cheapest McDonald’s plan, and other fantasies. Implicitly, the budget showed what strikers know: it’s hard to make ends meet on less than $15 an hour.
This article originally appeared on Working in These Times on July 29, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: David Moberg is a senior editor of In These Times, and has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976.
Friday, January 25th, 2013
For janitors and security officers in Minneapolis, members of SEIU Local 26, a raise would help bring them above the poverty line. It would allow them to pay for basic necessities, including groceries, school, rent or mortgage. And they’re prepared to fight for themselves, their fellow workers, and their families in order to achieve those things.
As the next step in their fight for a living wage and and affordable health care, members of Local 26 held a rally in downtown Minneapolis yesterday after contract bargaining came to a standstill. At the rally a strike petition was circulated, with a strike vote is scheduled for February 9.
“It’s not fair that while our productivity is going up, our wages are not keeping pace,” said Margarita Del Angel, a janitor who spoke at the rally. “We are being forced to do more and more work for the same amount, so our employers can cut back on workers and save money at our expense. And now, they are demanding to pay us even less. They want to cut wages for more than half of us…They want to lock us into poverty, while continuing to grow richer at our expense.”
For the first time ever, more than 6,000 janitors and security officers in the Twin Cities and suburbs are negotiating new contracts simultaneously. In 2008, a new contract was negotiated for 1,000 security officers after they struck in downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis. In 2006 and 2009, janitors voted to authorize strikes, but both were narrowly averted.
The average worker in Local 26 earns $20,503 annually. The federal poverty line for a family of four is $23,050.
Members of SEIU Local 26 clean and protect some of the Twin Cities’ largest office buildings that house some of the wealthiest corporations in the country, including Target, US Bank, and Wells Fargo. The contracts expired December 31, but after months of negotiations, employers are still unwilling to bargain in good faith.
“We’ve tried to bargain in good faith,” said Demetruis Moore, a member of the bargaining committee who’s worked as a security officer for more than five years. “But it’s clear they have no intention of doing so. Either come to the table and bargain in good faith, or we’re done. We’ll see you in the streets.”
If Local 26 members vote on February 9 to authorize a strike, the bargaining committees would then decide when and if a strike was necessary, as well as set a date for a strike. If a strike were to happen, it would be one of the largest strikes to ever happen in downtown Minneapolis.
“While we are proposing fair raises to move workers forward, our employers are demanding cuts. This would move workers backwards,” said Moore, the member of the bargaining committee. “The corporate elite in this country have the power to help unlock a better future for all of Minnesota. It’s time they do that.”
This post was originally posted on SEIU on January 25, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Mariah Quinn is a writer for SEIU.
Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
An interesting look at the unemployment rate. “What is currently a temporary long-term unemployment problem runs the risk of morphing into a permanent and costly increase in the unemployment rate” unless Congress takes action to create jobs.
Why the Unemployment Rate Is So High – New York Times
Unemployment claims have increased slightly. “The Labor Department says applications rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 371,000, the most in five weeks.”
Unemployment claims rise slightly in latest week – USA Today
“We need to avoid a lost generation of young people who will be playing economic catch-up their whole lives. We cannot stop pressing our leaders to help struggling poor and middle-class Americans.”
Crowdsourcing our economic recovery – CNN
Even though the economy is improving, we need to do more to ensure the long term unemployed get back on their feet. Long term unemployment makes it harder and harder to provide for one’s family, and causes dramatic increases in mental illness. It’s time Washington gets busy putting people back to work.
Long-Term Unemployed Winning Jobs Or Giving Up? – Huffington Post
This article was originally posted by ChangeToWin on January 11, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Change to Win is an organization created by over 5.5 million workers – if corporations can join together to hire an army of lobbyists, working and middle class Americans must also band together and restore balance by making sure we have a strong voice and a seat at the table again.
(Colleen Gartner is an intern at Workplace Fairness.)
Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) urged lawmakers to embrace a package that could avert the so-called fiscal cliff, noting that 2.1 million Americans have already lost federal unemployment benefits as a result of Congressional inaction. “From this point on, it is lose-lose,” Feinstein explained, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “My big worry, is, a contraction of the economy. The loss of jobs, which could be well over 2 million in addition to the people already on unemployment.”
Indeed, the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, projects that “more than 2 million Americans will stop receiving benefits after Dec. 29, when the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program will cease to exist.” The benefits have kept 2.3 million out of poverty last year alone, and the Congressional Budget Office projects that a full, year-long extension would lead to the creation of 300,000 new jobs.
The initiative requires recipients to search for a job while receiving payments, and one study found that unemployment recipients search harder for jobs than those who are not receiving money from the program.
Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) demanded spending cuts to pay for the program, which would cost $30 billion. Democrats have been pushing for a full extension of benefits.
This post was originally posted on Think Progress on December 30, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Igor Volsky is the Deputy Editor of ThinkProgress.org. Igor is co-author of Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform and has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Fox Business, Fox News, and CNBC television, and has been a guest on many radio shows. In 2011, Forbes named Igor one of their top 30 under 30 in Law & Policy. Igor grew up in Russia, Israel and New Jersey and graduated from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He was previously the Health and LGBT editor at ThinkProgress.
Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
A constant conservative charge against President Obama is that he is inherently anti-business. However, businesses keep defying the storyline by making larger and larger profits, rebounding nicely out of the Great Recession.
In the third quarter of this year, “corporate earnings were $1.75 trillion, up 18.6% from a year ago.” Corporations are currently making more as a percentage of the economy than they ever have since such records were kept. But at the same time, wages as a percentage of the economy are at an all-time low, as this chart shows. (The red line is corporate profits; the blue line is private sector wages.):
Corporations made a record $824 billion in profits last year as well, while the stock market has had one of its best performances since 1900 while Obama has been in office.
Meanwhile, workers are getting the short end of the stick. As CNN Money explained, “a separate government reading shows that total wages have now fallen to a record low of 43.5% of GDP. Until 1975, wages almost always accounted for at least half of GDP, and had been as high as 49% as recently as early 2001.”
This post was originally posted on Think Progress on December 3, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Pat Garofalo is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Pat’s work has also appeared in The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and In These Times. He has been a guest on MSNBC and Al-Jazeera television, as well as many radio shows. Pat graduated from Brandeis University, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ community newspaper, and worked for the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.
Friday, November 16th, 2012
The expanded federal unemployment insurance program that provides benefits to millions of long-term unemployed Americans is set to expire at the end of December. If Congress fails to extend it, roughly two million Americans could lose their monthly unemployment checks.
States provide unemployment insurance for the first 27 weeks after a worker loses his or her job; after that, the federal government has provided benefits under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program passed in 2008. There are currently five million Americans who have been out of work for longer than six months, and of those, virtually everyone who has been out of work since the end of July stands to lose their benefits at the end of the year. Even more could lose benefits by April without a renewal of the EUC program, the Washington Post reports:
These workers have exhausted their state unemployment insurance, leaving them reliant on the federal program.
In addition to those at risk of abruptly losing their benefits in December, 1 million people would have their checks curtailed by April if the program is not renewed, according to lawmakers and advocates pushing for an extension.
Congress last extended the federal unemployment program earlier this year, but it cut the number of weeks of assistance when it did so. More than 500,000 Americans lost unemployment insurance between the beginning of 2012 and the end of July, largely because the formula used to calculate eligibility for those benefits is based on comparisons of state unemployment rates. So even though some states still have persistently high unemployment rates, they have lost access to EUC because those rates have improved slightly since they peaked during the Great Recession.
Republicans have previously created fights over unemployment extensions, arguing that the program creates a culture of dependency and causes beneficiaries to stop looking for jobs. Despite those claims, the EUC program requires recipients to search for jobs while they receive benefits, and studies have shown that recipients of unemployment insurance look harder for jobs than those who don’t benefit from the program.
This post was originally posted on November 13, 2012 on ThinkProgress. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
Americans faced with a tough economy face significant struggles when they lose their jobs. Since the 1930s, workers who are without jobs through no fault of their own have had the safety net of the unemployment compensation program to serve as a backup plan until they get back on their feet. Under new rules implemented by Florida Gov. Rick Scott and his allies in the state legislature, it is getting harder and harder for working families who have lost their jobs to obtain the unemployment compensation that they have earned.
Florida’s unemployment compensation system was already one of the toughest in the nation before Republicans revised the rules to make it even more difficult for workers who have hit tough times to receive vital financial resources. Unlike any other state’s system, applicants are now required to apply online, with no option available for those who do not have Internet access to complete the application. Historically, applicants could use a call-in system to complete the requirements, but that option has been eliminated. The legislation was originally sponsored by state Rep. Doug Holder, (R).
“Florida’s revised procedures make it just about as difficult as possible for unemployed workers to access unemployment insurance now,” said Valory Greenfield, staff attorney at Florida Legal Services.
The effect is that the state is blocking workers from accessing help they are qualified for and twisting the knife in the state’s ailing economy. Nowhere in the country is it this hard to get help when you lose a job.
The online application also now requires a 45-question skills review, asking questions about applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information. The skills test is not available for review as the governor’s administration claims it is “proprietary.” This means, there is no way to independently verify that the test is a valid measure of worker skills. Scott’s office claims that the review is a “common sense” reform designed to create a more skilled workforce, but in reality, the review serves to discourage Floridians from completing the application. The denial rate for applications jumped more than 66% in the first three months of 2012. Other new rules require those who receive compensation to provide documentation that they have applied to a minimum of five jobs per week. The new rules also reduced the maximum number of weeks of that someone can be in the system from 26 weeks to 23. More dangerously for Floridians, is the fact that the legislation pegs the number of weeks workers can receive compensation to the unemployment rate, dropping the number of weeks all the way down to 12 if the state’s unemployment rate drops below 5%. That could certainly cause problems for workers in any fields that are not in line with the overall employment situation and does not allow for flexibility to deal with the complexities of the state’s diverse economy. The shorter duration of compensation offered by Florida could also diminish federal benefits that workers receive, since the federal benefits are tied to the compensation that states give. Florida’s average payment is $230 a week, with a maximum of $275—both among the lowest in the nation.
Scott renamed the program the “Reemployment Assistance Program” and cut the tax that funds the program by $800,000. The funding cuts have led to a logjam in the system as the call volume for the staff whose job it is to help applicants through the process is very high. There are numerous reports of people calling for assistance and never getting any help as calls go unanswered for days. Reporters who attempted to call into the system for help said that automated messages told them that there were hundreds of calls ahead of them in the queue and that the system hung up on them without them ever having talked to a human being. The cuts to the tax that funds the program have led to a massive deficit where the state borrowed $2.7 billion from the federal government to cover shortfalls.
Applicants also complain that the state’s website contains misinformation about the program and that it is difficult to navigate. Failure to complete any portion of the application or skills test results in delays in compensation or outright rejection of access to the program. Frequently, those who face delays or rejection are not even told that they have failed to complete the full process and they can wait weeks without knowing why they are not being paid. The new rules also allow the state to deny compensation to workers for their actions that take place outside of work and have no connection to any job.
The effect of the new rules has been dramatic—hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers have lost compensation that they have earned at a time when they most need it. Florida now has the lowest rate of unemployed citizens who receive jobless benefits, with a mere 15% of eligible Floridians receiving compensation. That rate is much lower than the national rate of 27%. Only one-third of applicants ever receives any money, despite the fact that the program costs taxpayers no money and unemployment compensation is part of the benefits package that employees receive from their employers. Nationally, 29% of first-time applicants are denied compensation. The rate in Florida is more than 50%.
After a complaint was filed by Florida Legal Services and the National Employment Law Project, the United States Labor Department is investigating the new rules to determine whether or not they are illegal and require an undue burden on the jobless.
“This complaint is not challenging Florida’s right to operate an unemployment insurance program that already pays some of the lowest benefits in the country. Rather, this complaint is saying that no state, including Florida, is free to erect procedural barriers that keep otherwise eligible workers from accessing unemployment insurance,” said George Wentworth, senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project.
States receive federal grants to administer their unemployment insurance programs, and one of the conditions for those grants is that they have procedures in place that facilitate the prompt payment of benefits to workers who meet basic eligibility criteria. Florida’s new procedures force workers who already satisfy the basic eligibility requirements to jump through additional hoops in the form of complex online transactions. Thousands of workers are being unfairly disqualified as a result. We are asking the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate and find that Florida’s procedures are in violation of federal law.
Gov. Scott frequently uses the drop in Florida’s unemployment compensation recipients as a talking point about how his policies have improved the economy, despite the fact that the largest reasons for the drop is recipients reaching their maximum number of weeks and being ineligible for further compensation, or people getting frustrated with the system and giving up—not finding new jobs. Florida has a higher unemployment rate than the national average and approximately 800,000 residents of the state are currently without work.
This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO NOW on October 22, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is senior writer for AFL-CIO. He is originally from Florida and is the father of three sons. He can be reached at Kquinnell@aflcio.org.