WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 10, 2014) — The omnibus federal spending bill released late Tuesday reportedly includes money to reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance that would effectively keep the aid program, scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, running for another year. Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Reps. Adam Smith (D-WA) and Sander Levin (D-MI) — as well as 30 other House Democrats including the rest of Washington’s Democratic Congressional delegation — sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urging TAA’s reauthorization.
“TAA is a critical part of our nation’s competitiveness strategy in the face of a rapidly evolving world economy and its reauthorization enjoys bipartisan support,” the letter reads. “Congressional leadership and action to reauthorize TAA is needed to stop the termination of an effective program that helps American workers and firms compete, innovate, strengthen, and diversify America’s economy. We must do all we can to save jobs by helping firms readjust and workers regain their edge and competitiveness in the global marketplace.”
The U.S. Department of Labor has notified TAA stakeholders that, if the TAA is not renewed, any workers not laid off before Dec. 31 will be ineligible to receive services, regardless of their coverage under an active certification. Among the thousands of workers in Washington state who could lose access to TAA benefits are hundreds of Boeing employees who are being laid off as the company shifts engineering work elsewhere.
“We’re seeing hundreds of layoffs at Boeing in Washington and more coming well into next year as the company moves 777X engineering and other work out of state,” said Chelsea Orvella, Legislative Director for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE 2001. “While Congress stalls on TAA, the clock is ticking for workers holding or anticipating layoff notices and wondering what’s next. It is very sad. Something needs to be done immediately and we thank Congressman Smith for leading that charge.”
Congress created the TAA program in response to the loss of jobs among hard-working Americans as a result of increasing global competition, as well as to promote American competitiveness. TAA can provide fully funded training, 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 unfortunate truth is that layoffs of this kind are all too common in our state, making these benefits a necessity,” wrote Caitlyn Jekel and Bill Messenger, Workforce Investment Act Liaisons for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, in a column last year. “The TAA program has already helped tens of thousands of unemployed workers across Washington find new jobs and make ends meet until they do.”