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Statement by Georgia AFL-CIO President Charlie Flemming Regarding the Cessation of Unemployment Insurance Supplemental Benefits by Governor Brian Kemp

Bentley Hudgins
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May 14, 2021

Contact: Bentley Hudgins,, Kalina Newman, 

Statement by Georgia AFL-CIO President Charlie Flemming Regarding the Cessation of Unemployment Insurance Supplemental Benefits by Governor Brian Kemp 

The Georgia AFL-CIO condemns Governor Kemp's decision to end supplemental unemployment insurance benefits. This aid has been a lifeline for Georgia's workers, aid that they have paid into and deserve. 

Gov. Kemp, along with Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Association of Manufacturers, believe these benefits are hurting businesses’ bottom line. As the state’s largest labor federation, representing thousands of Georgia’s working people, we believe this could not be farther from the truth. Their decision to economically coerce vulnerable, low-income Georgians into unsafe, underpaying jobs is political manipulation on full display. Unfortunately, it is characteristic for this administration to prioritize the interests of their corporate donors and wealthy political allies over the needs of our working class communities. 

Meanwhile, racist hiring practices that predominantly impact Black, Latine and queer workers in Georgia continue to go unchecked and exacerbate unemployment trends amongst our most vulnerable workers. In April 2021, unemployment claims for Black Georgians were 35 percent higher than all other filers, and 54 percent higher than white Georgians. 

People in Georgia have every reason to be selective in their approach to returning to their workplaces. Not because they are living off of unemployment benefits, but because they are scared for their lives and livelihood. We know that factory workers, such as those at the Factory Food Group Plant in Gainesville, are forced to go to work each day in fatally unsafe environments for sub-survival wages. As of May 13th, we have lost 19,795 Georgians to COVID-19, many of these being frontline and essential workers who lost their lives and loved ones trying to stay housed and fed. Of course there is a labor shortage. Thousands are no longer working in Georgia because they lost their lives. 

In light of this deep loss and death in our state, it would stand to reason that our state leaders would do right by our communities. However, instead of holding business to the bare minimum standards of a decent living wage, safe working environment and real benefits, Gov. Kemp has chosen to force Georgians into unsafe workplaces with unacceptable compensation for their labor. If our state leaders were truly concerned about a labor shortage, they would take legitimate steps to create a competitive market where workers and businesses can thrive by repealing Jim Crow-era “at-will” laws, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, expanding Medicaid and using the $4.9 B in state funding provided under the American Rescue Plan to better fund services and programs that would help our families recover and prosper—instead of funding tax breaks for corporations.