How Working Ohioans Secured Their Unemployment Insurance
For many people in Ohio, unemployment insurance is personal. When Working America canvassers spoke to people on their doorsteps about the state insurance program, we heard time and again that they or a loved one relied on earned unemployment insurance benefits to get them through tough times between jobs.
No one could understand why anyone would want to pull away an earned safety net just a few short years after the Great Recession that devastated entire communities and left so many Ohioans unemployed and struggling.
But after some extremist state assembly members attempted drastic cuts before recessing for the 2016 election, we knew they would likely try it again.
That attempt came in the lame duck session. With Ohio Republicans full of confidence following statewide election wins, state GOP leaders introduced bills in both the House and Senate to cut the length of unemployment benefits and drastically reduce support for dependents, such as children.
Everyday Ohioans and organizations such as We Are Ohio, the Ohio AFL-CIO and affiliated unions such as the United Auto Workers and Working America were ready, and we lept into action.
Our coalition organized community meetings, wrote letters and spoke out against this harmful bill. Working America members organized in their own communities to get neighbors writing and calling. We met with our elected leaders in person, and we were able to deliver over 13,000 letters and petition signatures to state lawmakers. Hundreds of Working America members also made phone calls to offices in Columbus.
The pressure worked. Elected officials were forced to respond to pressure from their constituents. With lightening speed, the committee hearings were canceled, and the bill was pulled off the agenda in the House and Senate that morning. In a hastily-convened press conference, House leadership and members of business and labor agreed they would work together to reform the program without hurting many Ohio families.
Working America Ohio State Director Melissa Miser said, “Things moved really fast—from being something we thought would be voted on any moment to being taken off the Legislature’s agenda. It became clear in meetings we had with state senators and representatives that they were willing to listen. We feel they were hearing from people in their districts, and it made a difference.”
Thanks to the united efforts of working people in Ohio, we have a seat at the table in the discussion on how to work out a long-term future for unemployment insurance in Ohio. We will keep watching future proposals to make sure there’s no attack on these benefits.
Ordinary people and organizations stepped forward to stand up for our earned unemployment insurance benefits, and it worked! The politicians who tried to cut them backed off. It’s a clear example of just how potent we are when we stand together and get organized.