Broadly speaking: Republicans refuse to aid displaced workers

The Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which helps workers displaced by free trade policies, is expiring and House Republicans have refused to schedule a vote on it. After losing control over their caucus on the Patriot Act vote earlier this week, they realize if a TAA extension had an up or down vote, many of their caucus would be under pressure to vote for it.

Here is a comment by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the the issue (Feb. 9):

Yesterday's abrupt refusal by the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives to schedule a vote to extend expiring Trade Adjustment Assistance programs (TAA) shows a blatant lack of concern for American workers who have lost jobs because of unfair trade deals.  For years the TAA program has been a lifeline for working people trying to get the skills necessary to change careers after their lives have been turned upside down. 

This is just more of the same old politics that voters don't want.  First it was blocking unemployment benefits, now it's fighting TAA programs for workers whose jobs have been outsourced. Apparently the Republican leadership thinks that workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own due to trade deals are living too high on the hog.  Instead of working to solve our economic problems, these leaders are determined to pay back corporate CEOs who are offshoring jobs, cutting wages and giving themselves bonuses. 

Every working person knows that our economy is unbalanced and we need action to protect the middle class.  Now it's up to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to show what their priorities are – helping workers and businesses alike or stalling proven, much-needed help that will keep our economy from tumbling back into a tailspin.

Here is a rejoinder as well from Department of Labor Sec. Hilda Solis:

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today issued the following statement regarding the extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program as amended by the Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance Act of 2009:

"It is vital that Congress take action before this Saturday to extend the Recovery Act"s expansions to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. These expansions to the TAA program have helped tens of thousands of trade-impacted workers get the job training, placement assistance and income support they need to succeed in a tough job market. On behalf of the workers whose livelihoods and families depend on this vital program, and every American who wants our country to compete and win in the changing global economy, I urge Congress to act before the end of this week.

"The Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance Act, which was part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act passed by Congress in 2009, strengthened the TAA program by extending coverage to workers in the service sector and providing them with enhanced benefit and service options. But those Recovery Act expansions will sunset on Feb. 12, 2011.

"Since the Recovery Act made these important changes to the TAA program, an estimated 400,000 workers have been certified to receive TAA services. Approximately 170,000 of these workers may not have been eligible without the Recovery Act's expansions.

"I have spoken with TAA participants during my travels throughout the country, and they have told me their first-hand accounts of the vital support this program provides. In fact, I was in Michigan and Ohio earlier this week – states where workers know what an essential lifeline TAA can be.

"A long-term extension of the expanded program would help many who are facing layoffs and seeking re-employment in a persistently challenging job market. I urge Congress to find a prompt and bipartisan solution to extending this vital program. 

"Last December, Congress unanimously passed a paid-for extension of the expanded TAA program. The administration supported that bipartisan measure and I stand ready and willing to work closely with Congress to quickly get a long-term extension enacted.

"Americans are rightly counting on their congressional leaders to help trade-impacted workers whose well-being should not be treated as a partisan issue."

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