Recent Press

Less than 24 hours after breaking news about more than 800 West Virginians losing their jobs in the timber industry, and in the same week that 1,000 more at a northern West Virginia tin mill were told they’re being laid off, the Senate Finance Committee has passed two bills to take unemployment benefits away from them.

“This is quite possibly the most heartless act I’ve seen in my 25 years of representing working people at the Capitol,” WV AFL-CIO President Josh Sword said. “To take earned benefits away from nearly 2,000 hard-working people who are losing their jobs through no fault of their own is unimaginably cruel and completely unnecessary.”

West Virginia began 2024 with the highest unemployment trust fund balance in over a decade, over $400 million. Sword noted that in his years serving on the state Workforce Development Board, Acting Workforce Commissioner Scott Adkins has never once mentioned any concern about the health of the fund.

In the Northern Panhandle, where more than 800 working for the Cleveland-Cliffs tin plant were told they are losing their jobs, United Steelworkers Local 2911 President Mark Glyptis said, “I’ve been reaching out to local and state officials in Charleston, trying to do anything and everything we can to help these families who are losing their jobs, and instead of trying to help, some of these legislators are doing everything they can to hurt them by cutting their unemployment benefits. It’s truly shocking.

“I can only assume that some of these lawmakers are willing to vote for this because they think their constituents won’t be affected by such layoffs. They’re wrong. The loss of Cleveland-Cliffs income will be felt by the entire town of Weirton, the county, the valley, and the entire state. The legislature should focus on making the situation better, not worse.”

The abrupt closure of Allegheny Wood Products Friday after 50 years of operation means more than 800 West Virginians across five counties have lost their jobs, with no notice. 

“These workers haven’t even had time to contemplate this travesty, and now the clock has started ticking on how long they will qualify for unemployment -- a crucial buffer that helps them keep their homes, feed their families, and maintain a semblance of normalcy as they look for a job,”  Justin Williams, Director, Affiliated Construction Trades WV, said. “Now they will be learning that the Legislature wants them to have less time and lower unemployment benefits.”

The Senate Finance Committee, led by Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, passed out two bills to cut unemployment benefits, Senate Bill 840 and Senate Bill 841, without comment. Those bills will next be considered by the full Senate.

Sword said the West Virginia AFL-CIO and its affiliates will urge their members to reach out to senators and delegates and tell them to reject any attempt to take away unemployment benefits.