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Hearing set for jobless benefits applications

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The hearing on applications for unemployment compensation benefits filed by striking workers at Constellium's aluminum rolling mill in Ravenswood will be Oct. 9 and 10 at the Charleston Civic Center, said Courtney Sisk, a state public information specialist.

The hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 9, Sisk said.

A three-member Labor Dispute Tribunal appointed by the state Unemployment Compensation Board of Review will conduct the hearing to determine whether the workers are eligible for benefits.

The tribunal will be composed of three administrative law judges employed by the Board of Review. The judges are civil service, state employees.

The tribunal's decision may be appealed to the three-member Board of Review and, if that were to occur, the board's decision could in turn be appealed to Kanawha Circuit Court.

State law allows workers involved in a labor dispute to file a claim for unemployment compensation. WorkForce West Virginia representatives went to the armory in Millwood on Aug. 21, and 570 Constellium workers applied for benefits. Employees who did not file a claim then have been able to do so at any state unemployment compensation claims office.

The unemployment compensation fund is financed by a tax on employers.

Controversy erupted in 2003 after negotiations failed on a new labor contract between Kroger and more than 1,700 employees who worked at 37 stores in West Virginia, five in Ohio and two in Kentucky.

The employees went on strike on Oct. 13, 2003, and applied for unemployment compensation. A month later, a West Virginia panel ruled that the workers could receive up to $350 a week in benefits. The panel said benefits were justified because Kroger had sent employees home and closed stores before the strike started.

Ohio authorities subsequently ruled that workers in that state were not eligible for benefits.

Kroger appealed the West Virginia decision to Kanawha Circuit Court and lost.

Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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