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07/26/2021 | Unemployed Action

Overhauling Our Unemployment Insurance System

Nearly 40 million people were left unemployed after COVID-19 struck in 2020. If we don’t make bold changes to our nation’s economic and social foundation now, we could squander our best chance to save our economy from tanking in the next decade. Last summer, organizers across our network quickly mobilized and launched Unemployed Action, a space for unemployed workers to fight for their needs. This group fought for and won continued unemployment relief throughout the pandemic and most recently in the American Rescue Plan. Right now, Unemployed Action is turning it’s focus to a #FixUI campaign and coalition to permanently reform unemployment insurance (UI). 

Through Unemployed Action, worker-led committees mobilized a growing base of more than 16,000 people from across the country to take action, including phone-banking, peer-to-peer texting, and organizing local protests. Dozens of new activists have built their skills through collective struggle, shared their stories, and participated in spokespeople trainings. Even as millions of families - mostly people of color - face a premature end to federal unemployment benefits, Unemployed Action continues to build community through mutual aid. The fights for continued relief and weekly organizing meetings have primed members for broader economic justice campaigns, including the fight to raise the minimum wage, win paid leave for all, and transformational overhaul of our broken UI system. 

Together with CPD affiliates, Unemployed Action built a #FixUI national coalition that includes affiliates like New Georgia Project, Step Up Louisiana, Detroit Action, Make the Road Nevada, Working Washington, and Ohio Organizing Collaborative, as well as national advocacy organizations and union allies. Most recently, CPD led an innovative policy development process in which unemployed activists engaged deeply with policy experts, researchers and economists to develop an ambitious set of reforms grounded in unemployed workers’ lived experiences. This month, we published a groundbreaking report, Reforming Unemployment Insurance: Stabilizing a system in crisis and laying the foundation for equity, with allies the Center for American Progress (CAP), the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the Groundwork Collaborative, National Employment Law Project (NELP), the National Women’s Law Center, and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. 

Twenty six states have moved to cut pandemic benefits early and more may follow suit, highlighting the urgency of establishing federal standards for unemployment benefit amounts and eligibility standards. The enormous geographic and racial inequality within our unemployment system calls out for Congressional intervention.

On June 24th, Unemployed Action and CPD affiliates mobilized members across the country for our #WECANTWAIT Day of Action. Outside of D.C., we held rallies in Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; Los Angeles, CA; Atlanta, GA to demand legislators #FixUI. Hundreds shared their stories of unemployment and communicated their demands for unemployment insurance reform and relief. Several Congressional offices responded immediately on social media indicating their support for our demands.

As we approach the pandemic unemployment benefits cutoff date of September 6, we will continue to apply concentrated pressure on key offices to push unemployment reform as part of the next reconciliation package. Unemployed Action will continue to build their internal organizing structure to mobilize and expand their base and could use your support!  Take 2 minutes to sign this petition and share your story, or share the story form with someone you know who is unemployed. With your help, we’ll continue to empower our leaders to develop their organizing skills to build power in their communities and across the country to demand an equitable economic recovery.