WFSE Members Impact DOL Policy on Unemployment Insurance

I recently sat on a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) focus group with fellow public servants working for their states’ Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Employment Services (ES) divisions to share ideas with the Office of Unemployment Insurance Modernization about workflow during the COVID-19 pandemic—what worked, what didn’t work, challenges, etc.

A proposed Wagner-Peyser Act rule change from the DOL aims to take the substance of those conversations and put them into action.

Critically, the proposals would:

  1. Reinstate the Employment Service staffing model wherein staff are cross-trained to process unemployment insurance claims when demand suddenly increases
  2. Reduce or the eliminate need to outsource unemployment insurance work
  3. Improve service for migrant and seasonal farmworkers

What is the Employment Service?

The Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933 established a nationwide system of public employment offices, known as the Employment Service. Today the Employment Service connects job seekers and employers nationwide in 2,500 American Job Centers.

Here in Washington, our state provides these services in the Employment Security Department’s (ESD) WorkSource centers. I personally instruct a six-week course on life and soft skills called Strategies for Success at WorkSource Thurston.

Why These Changes Matter

WFSE members at ESD set the standard for unemployment claim servicing during the pandemic. We were cross-trained and easily slid across divisions to provide help where it was needed most.

And thanks to engaged WFSE members and a robust union contract, we don’t have non-merit staff providing unemployment insurance or employment services within our state. We don’t contract out.

When the pandemic caused a historic surge in unemployment claims, states that contracted out unemployment services saw a bad situation get worse as people with little or no knowledge of the system and minimal training were thrown into action.

This rule change would ensure that this does not happen again.

Help Pass the Proposed Rule Changes

The public comment period is open now. Let the DOL know that you want them to implement these improvements. Investing in cross-training and good-paying, public service jobs works here in Washington, and it will work across the country as well.

The Comment period ends 6/21/22. Submit your thoughts here.

In solidarity,

Ashley Fueston
Vice President
AFSCME Council 28/WFSE