Important-law expands worker protections

June 08, 2020

On June 5, Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law the AFSCME-backed bill HB 2455, which gives expands access to unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation coverage.

AFSCME members made hundreds of calls to legislators to urge passage of this bill in the General Assembly, and the union’s legislative team played a critical role in crafting and passing the legislation.

Unemployment Insurance

The new law removes the prohibition against non-instructional education employees receiving unemployment benefits when they are laid off during the 2020 summer months. As a result, thousands of AFSCME members who work for school districts and universities will be able to qualify for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits this summer so they can make ends meet for their families. And, through the end of July, UI benefits will be increased by $600/week because of a recent change in federal law.

In addition, the law provides over $2 billion in additional federal funding; an additional seven benefit weeks in the state extended benefit plan; and non-charging for employers’ COVID-19 related unemployment insurance experiences to help the economic recovery efforts.

Workers’ Compensation

The new law also amends the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act to expand access to benefits for first responders and frontline workers stricken with COVID-19. It presumes that essential workers who contract COVID-19 did so because of their employment and makes this standard retroactive to the start of the pandemic.

“These critical changes to our state laws protecting workers would not have been possible without the grassroots advocacy of AFSCME members and the leadership of our legislative staff team,” said Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch. “As AFSCME has for decades, our union will continue to fight for the rights of all workers during this unprecedented time.”