Unemployment extension: the good, the bad and the ugly

BY:Scott Marshall| February 27, 2012

A victory! Unemployment Insurance has been extended for the rest of 2012. Republicans had to cave in due to pressure from constituents all around the country. There are many positive aspects (and a few negative) about the extension that we discuss below. But for now, take a moment to congratulate yourself on a job well done!

The good, the bad and the ugly of the extension

The bill includes some cuts to unemployment insurance: Previously, unemployed workers could receive up to 86, 93 or 99 weeks of unemployment benefits in most states (depending on unemployment rate). This included 26 weeks of regular (state) benefits, 4 tiers of federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation of 20,14,13 and 6 weeks, and 20 weeks of Extended Benefits (EB).

Under the new law

  • Benefits remain almost the same through the end of May.
  • June 1: The EB 20-week program will end in almost all states, cutting 20 weeks. Tier 4 (6 weeks) will be eliminated for states below 9% unemployment, and tier 3 (13 weeks) for states below 7%.
  • September 1: Tier 3 will be cut from 13 weeks to 9 weeks. Those 4 weeks will be added to tier 4 – but only for those states qualifying for tier 4, ie, with unemployment over 9%.

The bill is a lot better than the original House bill passed by Republicans in December. This was a hard-won victory – it is also one with a bitter aftertaste.  The AFL-CIO did not support the bill in its final form, because of the bill’s benefit cuts and attacks on government workers.

Details of what else is good and bad can be found at the People’s World and from the National Employment Law Project. For the ugly, the drug-testing we talked about last week still exists in the final bill. Oh, and our last word on why Gov. Scott of Florida may be so interested in drug-testing so many people – one of the more popular services at Solantic, the urgent care chain co-founded by Scott, is drug testing.

Education and unemployment: Is there a connection?

The Huffington Post has an article on unemployment rates broken down by education level in this article. Even though the statistics show that college-educated workers are less likely to be unemployed, many of the 99ers are people with college degrees, as shown in a powerful segment on 60 Minutes last Sunday. 

Unemployment news from around the country

  • Washington State: The Unemployed Nation Hearings, a two-day event scheduled for March 30-31, 2012, will air testimony from a wide range of unemployed people about their experiences. More info from the University of Washington here and job creation legislation introduced in WA can be found here.
  • Michigan: This article (PDF) points to tax changes taking place here and across the country: job cutting austerity and growing insecurity for low income as well as tax breaks for corporations.
  • New York: HERE Arts Center and Working Theater in collaboration with Occupy Wall Street culture groups and the NYC Central Labor Council are planning The Line (PDF of flyer) for Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 8:15AM. The Line will be the world’s longest unemployment line stretching over three miles along Broadway, from the bull at Wall Street to Times Square.
  • Employment in the construction market is way down.
  • Information on unemployment rates and benefits around the country.


Please make sure to visit the People’s World online for the best in worker’s news! Promote the stories on Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites.

Two other good resources: UnemployedWorkers.org and Unemployed Nation.

PLUS! Check out the new weneedjobsnotcuts.com for People’s World jobs stories aggregator.




    Scott Marshall is a vice chair of the Communist Party and chair of its Labor Commission. Scott grew up in Virginia where he first became active in the civil rights movement in high school, working on voter registration and anti-Klan projects in rural Southern Virginia and Tennessee. He was also active against the war in Vietnam.

    Scott has been a life long trade unionist and was active in rank and file reform movements in the Teamsters, Machinists and Steelworkers unions in the 1970s and '80s. He was co-chair of the Save Our Jobs committee of USWA local 1834 at Pullman Standard in Chicago and active in nationwide organizing against plant shutdowns and layoffs. He was a founder of the unemployed organization Jobs or Income Now (Join), in Chicago, and the National Congress of Unemployed Organizations in the 1980s.

    Scott has worked for the Communist Party since 1987 when he became the district organizer for the party in Illinois, a post he held until he was elected chair of the National Labor Commission in 1997. Scott remains active in SOAR (Steelworkers Active Organized Retirees). He lives in Chicago.

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