UAW local having trouble with unemployment benefits

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Some auto workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Sterling Heights Assembly plant didn’t receive the unemployment benefits they were expecting this month.

Issues related to the timing of the company’s filing to Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency resulted in an unspecified number of United Auto Workers members receiving only one week of unemployment benefits instead of two, as well as other delays, officials said.

“Our biggest issue has been unemployment benefits for our members,” said UAW Local 1700 President Charles Bell on Monday. “We’ve experienced multiple issues with our members trying to certify their benefits.”

The plant’s more than 3,000 employees, which Bell’s UAW unit represents, are in a six-week layoff until March 14 due to slowing demand for the Chrysler 200 midsize sedan.

FCA US, the automaker’s North American-based operations, said two issues related to the timing of processing the unemployment claims have since been resolved.

“The company has taken steps to correct those issues, including arranging an informational session with a representative from the State Unemployment Office and the plant to help educate employees on the certification process,” FCA US said in a statement. “We understand that this is frustrating for our employees, but are confident that the issues have been resolved and future payments will be received in a timely manner.”

The state says the company uses a system in which it electronically reports the names of employees who have been laid off to the unemployment office, which is convenient for employees since they do not have to file themselves for unemployment during scheduled layoffs.

“Depending on when the file was submitted by Chrysler, employees who were laid off in the same week may not all have had the same certification date, leading to confusion for employees about when to certify for benefit payments,” said Lynda M. Robinson, spokeswoman for Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, in an email to The Detroit News. “After that, those employees were back on their regular two week schedule.”

The workers have to certify their benefits by calling Michigan’s Automated Response Voice Interactive Network (MARVIN) or going online and using the Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM). If they do not, their payment may be held up or lost.

Robinson confirmed some Sterling Heights Assembly employees did receive a one-week payment due to the timing of when the state received the file — but no one who was eligible for benefits was missed in claim filing.

She said the state and company plan to meet for a second time to review the current process “in transmitting data regarding layoffs to the state and requirements regarding timing in and processing of data.”

Aside from the timing issues this month, Bell argues changes to unemployment office’s filing system have resulted in other issues, including members not receiving benefits on time.

However, Robinson says the process for filing and claiming unemployment benefits has not changed. She said her office will continue to work with the company to clarify procedures.

About 150 employees at Sterling Stamping impacted by the layoffs at the assembly plant have not had any issues with filing for benefits, according to UAW Local 1264 President LaShawn English.

(313) 222-2504