West Virginia's unemployment compensation system was established to help men and women who lose their jobs through no fault of their own, through layoffs, company shutdowns and the like. Yet in the past it has been used to help people who could have been working, but chose instead to go on strike against their employers.
That drains money from the unemployment compensation fund. It helps to prolong strikes by subsidizing people who walked off their jobs. This practice by a program intended to aid those unemployed by chance, not choice, has no reasonable justification.
It has continued in the Mountain State solely because legislators have been afraid for many years to anger labor unions by outlawing benefits for strikers.
Now, another big chunk of unemployment compensation money is being sought by strikers. Applications for benefits have been filed by 570 people who, on Aug. 5, went on strike against the Constellium Rolled Products company in Ravenswood. The strikers are members of United Steelworkers Local 5668.
Whether they will receive benefits apparently will be up to a three-member panel to be appointed by the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.
Of course, the review panel should reject the strikers' applications for benefits. In many states, that would be automatic because laws there take the logical position that strikers chose to leave their jobs.
But not here. Again, labor unions wield so much clout in Charleston that lawmakers have kept the door open for abuse of the unemployment compensation program.
Whether members of the review panel will show the fortitude needed to turn down the Constellium strikers will not be known for at least a few days. Whatever the decision in that case, state legislators should amend the law to ban benefits for strikers.