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February 09, 2005

Bush Budget Ends Aid for Workers Who Lose Jobs to Trade

In enacting various trade agreements in the last decade, the one promise on jobs extracted from the federal government was that workers displaced by foreign trade would be helped with retraining funds.

Bush now proposes to kill that program, Trade Adjustment Assistance, and lump it in with block grants to states -- who would be under no obligation to use it to help those workers.

It's hardly surprising that Bush wants to kill the program, since his administration has repeatedly violated the law and refused benefits to workers who qualified, a fact that led the special federal trade court which hears those claims to condemn the Bush administration:

While this case is troubling enough when viewed in isolation, it is even more troubling if it is viewed in the context of other TAA and NAFTA-TAA cases appealed to this Court...There is something fundamentally wrong with the administration of the nation?s trade adjustment assistance programs if, as a practical matter, workers often must appeal their cases to the courts to secure the thorough investigation that the Labor Department is obligated to conduct by law.
Like many areas, the Bush has violated the law with impunity and now seeks to solve the legal problem by eliminating the law that obliges it to assist these workers. Which is the beauty of a block grant: no legal rights for the workers who lose their jobs.

Update: This Bush proposal, it appears, only kills the funds for retraining the workers, so they'd still have the legal right to expanded unemployment benefits under the TAA system. It's still a betrayal of the promise that workers losing their jobs to trade would have specific help in moving on to new jobs with new skills.

Posted by Nathan at February 9, 2005 08:17 AM