Granite City, IL – Three Metro-East state legislators are calling on the Illinois governor and legislative leaders to hold a special session to allow a vote on extending unemployment benefits to laid-off steel workers.
The proposal – House Bill 6594, sponsored by Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) would provide an additional 26 weeks of benefits for about 1,500 workers at Granite City Steel who were laid off in the plant shutdown last April. Their initial 26 weeks of unemployment have run out or will end soon.
Hoffman, Representative Dan Beiser and Senator Bill Haine (both D-Alton) sent the letter to Governor Bruce Rauner, House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.
The bill was filed too late for consideration in the previous legislative session, so the lawmakers are seeking the earliest possible resumption, and Hoffman has said it could be made retroactive to when each worker’s benefits end.
The letter states:
“Thousands of individuals and families are being affected and are in danger of losing everything. Time is running out for many of these families. We would request a legislative session be called in order to pass this legislation … this cannot wait until after the election.”
An indication that the legislation has the potential to attract bi-partisan support is that Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) has signed on as a co-sponsor, and he is generally known as an opponent of union interests.
At a recent United Steelworkers retirees’ awards luncheon in Pontoon Beach, Hoffman said it’s a matter of fairness.
“We want to come back into session so we can deal with extending these unemployment benefits because people are hurting and families are hurting, and we should extend them,” he said.
“It’s no fault of any worker at Granite City Steel that they’re laid off today,” he added. “It’s because of unfair trade practices, where foreign countries are unfairly dumping steel into the U.S., and we should stand up and be fair to our steel workers and their families.”