Government assistance for workers who lose their jobs as a result of import competition is gaining
momentum in Congress as the House Ways and Means committee has weighed in with a bill that would
liberalize benefits and make access to them easier. Legislation that would expand the federal
government’s long-standing Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Act was introduced in March by Rep.
Robin Hayes, R-N.C., who has been concerned about textile and apparel job losses. While a companion
measure was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., no action was taken on either
The new bill, approved by the Ways and Means committee last week by a vote of 26-14, takes a
broader approach than the earlier measures. It would provide adjustment assistance to workers
employed by a firm that experiences significant layoffs when there is a connection between the
layoffs and import competition or production relocation — offshoring.
Under current law, many manufacturing workers are left out of TAA because of restrictive
eligibility criteria. For example, workers who lose their jobs because their factory moves to, say,
China, may not get TAA benefits because at the present time, such workers must show that the
factory relocation will result in increased imports to the United States. If goods are produced by
that factory for an overseas market, TAA would not apply.
Under present law, certification for TAA benefits is on a firm-by-firm basis. The new bill
would require the secretary of labor to conduct an industry-wide certification investigation when
three petitions from firms in the same industry are certified within a six-month period. It also
requires the secretary of labor to develop criteria for industry-wide certification. The bill
provides for automatic certification of workers from a firm covered by an International Trade
Commission finding in an anti-dumping or countervailing duty safeguard proceeding.
The new bill doubles the current job retraining funding cap from $220 million to $440 million
and permits it to increase to $660 million by 2010.
“In the rush to embrace global trade, American workers have been left by the side of the
road,” said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “It is time to put American
workers and their families first, and this legislation puts us on that path.”
October 30, 2007