State House approves unemployment benefits for strikers

  • By Bill Lucia Washington State Standard
  • Saturday, February 17, 2024 1:30am
  • Politics

OLYMPIA — Workers who are on strike or locked out of their workplace by their employer due to a labor dispute would gain access to unemployment insurance benefits under a bill the Washington state House approved in the early morning hours Tuesday, after working through the night.

The bill passed on a 53-44 vote. Five Democrats voted with Republicans against it. Among them were Rep. Mike Chapman of Port Angeles, who represents Legislative District 24 which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County. Others were Reps. Debra Entenman, Larry Springer, My-Linh Thai and Amy Walen.

Under the legislation, striking workers would become eligible for unemployment insurance on the second Sunday following the first day of a strike and could then begin to receive benefit payments after an additional one-week waiting period.

The bill would also remove a section of state law that disqualifies employees from unemployment insurance during employer-initiated labor lockouts.

Lawmakers amended the bill on the floor.

These changes included adding a four-week limit on benefits for striking workers and language to shift the cost of the benefits onto the employer involved in the labor dispute, rather than spreading the expense across the unemployment insurance system. Another amendment specified that benefits may not be paid during strikes prohibited by federal or state law or a court order.

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Bill Lucia is editor-in-chief of the Washington State Standard (https://washingtonstatestandard.com), an independent, nonprofit news organization that produces original reporting on policy and politics.

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