Labor Rally to Protect Strikers on Feb. 28 in Olympia

February 22, 2024

via the Stand: All union members and supporters are urged to attend a Labor Rally to Protect Striking Workers on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at noon on the State Capitol Steps in Olympia. Participants will be standing together to support HB 1893, which would allow striking workers to access limited Unemployment Insurance benefits. This bill has passed the Washington State House of Representatives but has yet to get a vote in the State Senate.

TAKE A STAND — RSVP today to attend this important rally to send a message to state senators that we want them to vote YES on HB 1893! Participants will begin gathering on the Capitol Steps at about 11 a.m. and a brief program will start at noon. Talk to your Local Union about participating to make sure your Union is represented! Wear your Union colors and work gear, and bring Union signs and banners. Download and share this flyer to help spread the word.

Without HB 1893, intransigent employers can use the threat of evictions, repossessions, and other extreme economic hardships as a bargaining strategy. In particular, this harms low-wage workers who can never afford to exercise their right to withhold their labor.

If HB 1893 is approved, Washington would join New York, New Jersey and Maine in allowing striking workers access to this critical safety net. This would help level the playing field, discourage extreme economic hardship as an employer bargaining strategy, and promote good-faith contract negotiations.

Under HB 1893 as approved by the House, workers on strike would have a 14-day waiting period before they could apply for unemployment benefits, which would be limited to four weeks. Now, even with its limitations on benefits, lobbying groups representing some of the biggest corporations in Washington are fighting hard to kill this bill. They don’t want striking workers to have any lifeline at all.

HB 1893 is a priority bill for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions. Here are some excerpts from the WSLC’s fact-sheet in support of its passage:

●  Employers’ refusal to negotiate is a feature of their bargaining strategy, not a bug. In the recent strike by entertainment industry writers, a studio executive made their strategy clear: “Allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.” It is reprehensible that employers build their bargaining strategy around the evictions of employees’ families.

  • Strikes lasting more than two weeks are rare. BLS data shows only three major strikes since 2009 lasting more than two weeks which could qualify under this bill. Strikes are a last resort, and no one goes on strike lightly. Strikes can also impact earned retirement benefits, health insurance, and prescription drug coverage. Unemployment is a partial wage replacement, and employers are always better able to weather a strike than the workers.
  • Washington’s unemployment trust fund is in good shape. We have carefully stewarded our trust fund and, unlike other states, did not take out a loan for UI during the pandemic. ESD estimates that this would lead to less than a 1% increase in UI claims during months when a qualifying strike occurs.
  • It’s cruel to allow workers exercising their right to strike to go hungry, bankrupt, or lose their homes because they are temporarily out of work. And it’s cynical to believe that allowing workers to access unemployment benefits will encourage them to go on strike. Workers do not decide to go on strike lightly. When they do, unemployment insurance will simply help their families survive. Only a fair contract can help them thrive.

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