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Navigating UI with the WSLC

New program provides trainings and hands-on assistance for unemployment insurance

OLYMPIA, WA (June 18, 2024) — Losing a job is scary and stressful. In Washington, many workers facing job loss have a safety net available to them in the form of unemployment insurance. But filing an unemployment claim isn’t always quick, easy or straightforward, and running into obstacles can discourage working folks from accessing the benefits they’re entitled to. 

Enter the Unemployment Insurance Navigator program, funded by Washington State’s Employment Security Department (ESD). ESD has partnered with community and labor orgs – including the Washington State Labor Council and Drivers Union/IBT 117 – to provide support to working folks navigating Washington’s UI claims process. The funding, provided for in the American Rescue Plan Act approved by President Biden and Congress in 2021, aims to promote comprehensive guidance and assistance to claimants. 

This partnership between ESD and the chosen organizations is expected to significantly enhance the overall experience for claimants, equipping them with the necessary tools and resources to navigate the UI process more effectively.

“It’s far too common for workers to face serious financial despair while waiting for UI benefits, or to give up on benefits altogether,” said WSLC Workforce Development Director Chelsea Mason-Placek. “We’re excited to be partnering with ESD and eight other community and labor organizations to try and change that trend in Washington. The UI Navigator program leverages organizations like the WSLC, who have long been at the forefront of helping workers with UI, to break down barriers for the communities we serve.”

In February, the WSLC hired Michael Pichler as the UI Navigator Coordinator. Since then, Pichler has helped more than 200 people clear up or avoid UI claim issues, resulting in vital income support for workers facing layoffs and workers in apprenticeship training. 

Michael Pichler at a tabling event sharing info on the UI navigator program

“After being denied unemployment myself last October, my goal is to help workers navigate their unemployment and help clarify confusing questions,” said Pichler. “Working with ESD, I can help shorten the wait time on unpaid benefits, striving to improve the unemployment process.”

UI navigation trainings available

The WSLC’s  UI Navigator work offers more than one-on-one support. Pichler and the WSLC Workforce Development team provide UI trainings for union and community leaders, members, and staff. These trainings, available in-person or virtually, are designed to help workers and advocates understand the UI process, identify common issues, and hit the ground running should unemployment support be needed. 

The program has seen tremendous positive response from the labor community. “Seattle Area Pipe Trades Apprenticeship sends a huge THANK YOU for the WSLC Workforce Development and Project HELP taking the time to meet with the SAPT Class Representatives,” said Heather Winfrey, Assistant Training Coordinator. “We appreciate the support and engagement as we get apprentices and our larger union community more familiar with successfully filing UI claims or accessing support for Workers’ Comp.” 

Pichler, right, helps lead a UI training for union members.

“The IUPAT District Council 5 really appreciates the support of the WSLC’s UI Navigator program,” said Chad Smith, Director of Government Affairs. “It’s made a big difference for the painters and allied trades. We look forward to continuing to work together on helping our membership.” 

Schedule a training

UI Navigator services are available to all workers. Contact Laurel Poplack at or (360) 553-5525 to schedule a training. And help the WSLC and our partners get the word out about this program by sharing this article with anyone who may need help navigating the UI process.

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