On Sept. 1, the Kimberly-Clark Corp. announced that, unless a buyer can be found, it plans to shut down its tissue and pulp mill on the Everett waterfront. Unfortunately, it’s a story we’ve heard all too often in Washington state as the lingering affects of the Great Recession and financial crisis — and of competition from foreign companies — lead to the closure of a plant responsible for generations of family-wage jobs.
For decades, the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) has been fighting to find alternatives to such plant closures. But when such closures and layoffs can’t be avoided, the WSLC helps the affected workers have access to job retraining and reemployment opportunities available through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).
“The important thing is to start immediately and to work collaboratively to make sure everything possible is done, first to avoid the closure and then to make sure families have access to the help they need,” said Chelsea Orvella, WIA Labor Liaison for the WSLC. “That may ultimately include petitioning for TAA certification so these folks get the best training and unemployment benefits available, if at all possible.”
TAA is Trade Adjustment Assistance, a federal program that can provide up to 2-3 years of fully funded training, a 65% health coverage subsidy, extended income support, and other benefits to dislocated workers whose companies move production or outsource to another country, or are forced to lay off workers or close plants due to increased imports and foreign competition. The WSLC recently assisted in securing TAA certification for dislocated workers at Grays Harbor Paper in Hoquiam and Nalley’s Fine Foods in Tacoma.
Check out this video, produced by the WSLC, to explain TAA:
Of course, the first priority is to avoid plant closures. As The (Everett) Herald reminds us all in its Sept. 4 Sunday editorial, “Pull out the stops to save jobs:”
The closure of a plant that supplies the area with 750 family-wage jobs would rip through the already wobbly local economy like a chainsaw through scrawny trees. The negative impact would reach far beyond K-C workers and their families — some of whom have had multiple generations make their living there.
But for trade-impacted businesses that can’t survive, TAA provides a substantial safety net to help such dislocated workers and their families get the help they need to survive and find new jobs.