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Referral Union Program

Some unions participate in the Referral Union Program. Participation in the program allows union members to count the union dispatch and referral system as fulfilling their job search requirements. Full referral unions maintain out-of-work lists and dispatch eligible members to available jobs. Members of referral unions who are registered and actively seeking work through the union do not have to seek work outside of the union. In order to participate in the program, a union must apply and be approved. See WAC 192-210-100
Only individuals who are eligible and actively seeking dispatch by the union are eligible for the program. See WAC 192-210-105  

Union responsibilities

The union is responsible for notifying members that their eligibility for benefits may be affected if they are not available for suitable work as defined in RCW 50.20.100 or RCW 50.20.110.

The union is responsible for notifying Employment Security about an individual's availability for dispatch or refusal of dispatch if requested. It must also provide records that will help Employment Security determine if a member is available for and actively seeking work, unless disclosure of the information would violate state or federal law. See WAC 192-210-110

Full referral union membership

Membership in a full referral union applies to journeymen, apprentices, members in travel status as allowed by union guidelines, and those eligible for and actively seeking dispatch for suitable work through the union. Membership is generally accepted as meeting job search requirements unless the union reports otherwise. Union members are not required to take any action that would place their union membership in jeopardy as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits. See WAC 192-210-115

Note: Membership in a union does not include individuals who pay a fee to be placed on the union's out-of-work list but who are not registered union members and are not actively seeking work through the union dispatch process.

Workers must meet established union criteria for dispatch/referral and have no unreasonable limitations on their availability. This applies to workers who are active members or members paying reduced dues for economic reasons as provided in union regulations. Failure to comply with dispatch requirements may result in a denial of benefits.

Generally, verification of dispatch availability by another union local is not accepted. Exceptions are:

  • When members are in valid travel status.
  • When two locals maintain a reciprocal agreement for dispatch of members within both locals' jurisdictions.

Employment Security will presume a union member has met the availability and job search requirements of RCW 50.20.010 when the member files a weekly claim certifying he or she is able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work as instructed. See WAC 192-210-120(7)

The union member is required to report if he or she is not available for dispatch, refuses dispatch or referral, or is no longer registered or eligible for dispatch during any week claimed.

Some unions use a bid process where members bid on available jobs rather than being referred directly. A member is expected to bid on at least three jobs that the individual had a reasonable expectation of getting based on the individual's seniority or union rules. See WAC 192-210-120(2)

A refusal of dispatch, or refusal to bid on a job, may be considered a refusal of suitable work and will be adjudicated under RCW 50.20.080

If the union member's occupation requires a license, certification or permit, an availability question is raised if the license is not current. It is the member's responsibility to keep the license current, not that of the union. See WAC 192-210-120(3)

Extended Benefits

If a member of a referral union is receiving extended benefits, they must make three job search contacts in addition to their union contact. This is explained in WAC 192-240-030.


  • If you are a union official and want information about the Referral Union Program, email systempolicy@esd.wa.gov.
  • If you are a union member with questions about the Referral Union Program, contact your local union official.