If Congress doesn’t act, two million workers will see their unemployment benefits disappear at the end of the year due to the expiration of emergency measures put in place during the Great Recession. The expiration will be the first time Congress has ended federal benefits with unemployment so high.
But Congress is not the only entity standing between workers and the social safety net. According to a report by the Morning Call, online retail giant Amazon — via the contractors it employs to hire short-term workers — is preventing unemployed workers from accessing their benefits in an effort to drive down costs:
The pressure to keep costs down means many who take temporary jobs at an Amazon warehouse hoping it will result in long-term stability and independence instead find themselves jobless and fighting for a public benefit that represents their last financial resort.
The Morning Call attended 23 unemployment compensation hearings this year involving temporary Amazon warehouse workers hired by Integrity Staffing Solutions, including hearings for several employees who lost their jobs following illness or injury. Most workers were fighting for benefits of between $100 and $200 a week.
Advocates for the working poor say the company’s aggressive stance on unemployment compensation exploits low-wage earners who need the benefit for food, housing and other necessities while they search for other jobs. The workers are often outmatched in the unemployment process.
Unemployment insurance kept 2.3 million Americans out of poverty last year, and has the potential to create 300,000 jobs next year by pumping money into a weak economy. Unemployment benefits also discourage the long-term unemployed from dropping out of the labor force.