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Workers Lose Jobs to Trade—and Now Republican Trio Blocks Their Benefits

12.22.07

Workers Lose Jobs to Trade—and Now Republican Trio Blocks Their Benefits
by James Parks, Dec 20, 2007

AFL-CIO Blog Link

Three Republican senators led by Jon Kyl of Arizona ruined the holidays of tens of thousands of working people whose jobs were shipped overseas because of the flawed U.S. trade policies that encourage employers to move offshore. The senators blocked a unanimous consent agreement to extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program for three months.

TAA provides financial assistance and training to workers who lost their job due to imports or offshoring. The program is set to expire Dec. 31. Even though the House approved an extension last week, the Senate failed to do so yesterday before adjourning for the year.

Nearly 120,000 workers were certified as eligible to receive TAA benefits from Oct. 1, 2005, through Sept. 30, 2006, according to the Congressional Budget Office. During that same period, roughly 60,000 individuals started to receive cash and training benefits.

The three Senate Republicans weren’t even concerned with TAA—they held the bill hostage because they wanted to make changes to the Federal Aviation Administration trust fund.

Because of their political pettiness, thousands of workers throughout the country will be denied vital benefits to support their families under this important program. They will receive no financial assistance, no job training, no help maintaining health insurance and no wage insurance if they are forced to take a lower-paying job.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) blasted the Republicans, saying:

Holding American workers hostage to leverage unrelated priorities is bad enough at any time of year, but it’s hard to believe that in the week before Christmas, a political move will stop training, money and other assistance for hard-working folks in need.

Baucus, who introduced comprehensive TAA legislation in July, secured a promise from the U.S. Labor Department to continue the program through 2008 with funds provided in the omnibus appropriations bill passed Tuesday. But Senate Democrats say the reality is that the funds are not guaranteed until the program is reauthorized and they will mount an effort to renew the program when they return to work in January.

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