Undoubtedly, the last several months have been devastating for Oregon’s working families. Following the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in late February, the virus spread quickly and impacted nearly every employment sector. Through early May, nearly 400,000 Oregonians had filed for jobless benefits, nearly a fifth of the state’s workforce. With so many workers left without work, the Oregon Employment Department has been scrambling to address a backlog of 38,000 claims.
As thousands of workers continue to await Federal and State assistance, the Oregon AFl-CIO is taking a multipronged approach to tackling the unemployment crisis. In early March, the State Federation began holding weekly training sessions for displaced union members, working on the ground with affiliates and unemployed union members to gain access to benefits and public service programs. Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor outlined the importance of these services provided by our Movement:
“The outbreak of COVID-19 has presented an unparalleled public health crisis for working families. As thousands of workers found themselves out of work and without health insurance, we saw an urgent need to help our affiliates and their members navigate the unemployment system and other state programs. By collaborating with stakeholders within Oregon’s Labor Movement, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that Oregon’s workers get the benefits that they deserve.”
The State Federation is also working with union staff and leaders on how to advise laid-off members and their employers about accessing the state’s Work Share program. Work Share claims help employers avoid layoffs by allowing them to subside lost hours with UI. In addition, participating employees are eligible for the additional $600 benefit under the CARES Act through the week of July 25, 2020.