Two years after passing a business-backed tightening of the unemployment system at 4 in the morning, labor groups are pushing lawmakers to undo some of those changes. Their main focus: permanently increasing benefits for seasonal workers, who rely on unemployment to survive.
"In 2003, we made some humongous concessions," said Bob Abbott, who represents laborers in Washington and North Idaho. "We had people that lost their houses, had power shut off, down here fighting for compromise last year."
They got that compromise last year, when lawmakers restored some of the benefits temporarily. Now labor groups are pushing to make that change permanent, with Senate Bill 6885.
"It’s not that I choose to depend on unemployment, it’s just the way it is," said Phil Jack, a faculty member at Green River Community College.
Businesses are resisting, saying that the changes would slowly draw down the state trust fund that pays unemployment claims -- or quickly, if another economic slowdown hits.
(Photo: Seattle ironworker Henry Spriggs watches lawmakers discuss the bill Monday.)