Compiled By CityTownInfo.com Staff
January 27, 2010
The U.S. Department of Labor announced this week that nearly 5,000 displaced workers in 14 states who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign trade are eligible for benefits under the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program.
The benefits, which include financial aid and job retraining, were established as part of the Trade Act of 1974. In 2002, the legislation was expanded to cover workers whose jobs were outsourced to foreign countries, as well farmers and fishermen. Last year, the Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance Act further expanded the program to assist service industry workers.
"The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to supporting all workers, including those who are impacted by trade," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a press release. "Through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, we are leveraging opportunities for displaced workers to acquire the skills needed to secure good jobs in promising areas of their local economies."
Workers who lost their jobs at Evansville, Indiana's Whirlpool plant as a result of production shifting to Mexico are among those who were eligible for TAA benefits. The Evansville Courier & Press reports that employees who were terminated since December 6, 2008, could receive up to 156 weeks of full- or part-time training, a tax credit that will cover 80 percent of monthly health insurance premiums, and additional funds to help with job searches.
Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel praised legislators for their help in securing the benefits. "This is a difficult time for Whirlpool workers and their families who are faced with an uncertain future when the Evansville plant begins closing this spring," the mayor said. "The fact that they are eligible for TAA will certainly help them as they make this transition."
Charles Browell, 54, would probably agree. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that after being laid off from his job making foundry equipment because production moved to Columbia, Browell used TAA benefits to study carpentry and construction. This May, he expects to graduate this May with an associate degree in specialized technology.
"That degree will open up a lot of doors for me," he told the Tribune-Review. "I could not have done it without the TAA benefits. The biggest part is they pay for the tuition, the books and the tools."
While many have benefited from TAA, critics argue that the program assists a small fraction of the unemployed. The Tribune-Review notes that according to a 2007 estimate from President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, less than 3 percent of the long-term job losses were caused by international trade.
"We set up niche programs, like TAA, in response to specific political pressures," noted Howard Rosen, executive director of the Trade Adjustment Assistance coalition in Washington, D.C., who was interviewed by the Tribune-Review. Nevertheless, he said, the program is essential because "there is little probability that they will find another job in their previous industry, or even occupation."