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Unemployment Insurance - Frequently Asked Questions

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October 23, 2021

We know members are frustrated and confused about the unemployment insurance situation. We are now working closely with the Department of Labor, which is committed to helping us solve any issues. 

Folks should know that New York State’s Unemployment systems have been overwhelmed for a while due to the increased volume of claims during the pandemic and in addition to that, the special program for pandemic unemployment assistance created new requirements for DOL staff to process. Not to mention, that our strike is the first major one for which the reduced "suspension period" applies (suspension period = the time you have to wait until you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits). 

Any other strike had a 7 week suspension period, but because we changed the law in Albany in 2019, the suspension period was reduced to 2 weeks - and with all changes, it takes some time to get used to it and there will be glitches. 

We just wanted you to understand why things have not been running smoothly with Unemployment. The silver lining is that folks should receive payment soon - and will be the first ones ever to receive this in this short amount of time. Had we not had changed the law, we wouldn't have this problem now, because there wouldn't be any UI benefits for many more weeks.

Below are the questions we’ve seen most frequently. If you have another question or need more help, please come to the Local 1133 office Monday to Friday between 8 A.M. and 4 P.M. to speak with someone on the Unemployment Team. If you can not make it during that time frame, please call the Union Hall (716-828-1133) to schedule an appointment. 

I am having an issue with unemployment.  Who do I call?

We recommend calling the union hall and asking to speak to someone on the Unemployment Team.  We do not recommend calling Unemployment at this time. We are working very closely with the Department of Labor on this and they will help us with any issues members may have.   

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits during the Mercy Hospital/CHS work stoppage?

Yes. New York State permits workers who have lost their jobs due to a “labor dispute” to collect unemployment insurance (“UI”) benefits.

What is a “labor dispute?”

In the eyes of Unemployment, a “labor dispute” can be (1) a strike or (2) a lockout.

How does being on strike affect my UI benefits? 

A strike is an action by workers to withhold their labor from their employer during a labor dispute. For purposes of UI, workers on strike must wait 14 days before they are eligible for UI benefits. This waiting period is known as a “suspension period.” Workers seeking unemployment must also go through a 7-day waiting period. The waiting period does not happen during the suspension period. This means, all in all there are 3 weeks until members are eligible for UI benefits. For most members who filed for UI, the first week of eligibility starts 10/25.

On letters from Unemployment, you may see “You are suspended from unemployment insurance benefits for the period…” This means that Unemployment has determined that you are out of work because of a strike and must wait the 14-day period (“suspension period”).

Didn’t CHS lockout the Union? Are we on a strike or a lockout?

We are on strike.  The Union gave CHS notice of its intent to strike starting October 1, 2021, at 6:00 AM. On September 20, 2021, CHS posted a letter starting “CWA-represented associates will not be permitted to cross the picket line to work during the strike—or possibly longer.” It appears that that sequence of events—strike 10-day notice given first and then members told that they would be locked out—is why the Department of Labor ultimately decided that this is a strike. The lockout does not negate the fact that we are on strike. 

Members were instructed to file for unemployment benefits immediately after the lockout/strike started because it was unclear whether Unemployment would treat the CHS labor dispute as a strike or a lockout.  It appears that Unemployment has assessed this labor dispute as a strike.  Because of the strike, the law imposes a 14-day suspension period in addition to the 7-day waiting period.

Should I claim my benefits from the CWA Strike Fund when I file or re-certify for unemployment?

No, you should not claim your CWA Strike Fund benefits as income and you should not claim your strike duties as employment.  As a CWA member, your picket duties are your responsibility and you are eligible for CWA Strike Fund benefits. 

I received a notice that I have an appointment scheduled with a Labor Career Advisor.  What should I do?

We recommend that you send an email to the email address listed on the letter with the following message:

“I am a CWA 1133 member out of work because of an ongoing labor dispute with Mercy Hospital (Catholic Health). I am exempt from the work search requirements because I am on strike.” 

Be sure to send this email before the appointment call. If you receive a call anyway, tell the person on the phone that you are exempt from the work search requirements because you are on strike. If you have questions about this and like someone to make the call with you, call the union and someone from the UI team will assist you.

What if my claim is denied? 

If your claim is denied, notify the union right away. Please provide the Unemployment Team with a copy of any letters denying your claim. 

If any of the following issues applies to you, come to CWA 1133 Monday – Friday between 8 A.M. and 4 P.M. and ask for the Unemployment Team.  If you cannot make it during that time frame, please call the union to schedule an appointment. 

  • I am confused about a letter I got from Unemployment. What should I do?

  • I do not have a smartphone, or internet access, or I am having tech issues at home while trying to apply for unemployment. What should I do?

  • I am having issues with ID ME. What should I do?

  • There is fraud on my account. I cannot finish my Unemployment application. What should I do?