The Town Employees of Cabotville are mad. They have been without pay raises for 2 years because of the state budget cuts, which cut aid to their town. At their union meeting some of them made it clear they wanted to do something. "We're always the ones to take the hits," said Mary Higgins. "You don't see the big shots or big business going two years without a pay raise." "Let's go talk to our elected representatives at the state capital" said Bill Haywood, "and by talk I mean raise some Cain."
In these times of cutbacks and corporate rip-offs, all workers, but especially public sector workers, need to be involved in political action. Budgets for towns, counties, state and educational institutions are affected by what happens on the state budget level and the states are affected by the federal budget.
But also, why shouldn't we ask the mayor to help us force the company to clean up an unsafe work environment? Why shouldn't we ask our state Representatives and Senators to join with us in our push to get the company to invest in our plant, or keep it from closing? Why not ask your local lawmakers to oppose some greed-driven "privatization" scheme that is undermining public services and workers?
Here are some basic tips:
- Full-blown political action committees are great but it's more important to be able to go into action on short notice than to try to set up and sustain a formal political action committee.
- Don't underestimate or neglect the basics. How does the legislature work? When is it in session? Who are your elected representatives? Where is their office? Who are their aides?
- Don't worry that you are not an expert, concentrate on mobilizing the membership to deliver a basic message of opposing or supporting a bill or issue.
- Figure out who is an expert on an issue that is of concern to the union membership and pick their brains to get the facts you need. Find a friendly organization or a friendly state legislator.
- Remain independent, take positions and determine your strategy by using "what's right for the membership and our citizens."
- Remember that most legislators are used to dealing with "professional" lobbyists. When they are confronted with actual people who aren't being paid to be there, they are impressed.
- Work with the National Union to do research and keep tabs on the situation.
- Make allies with other citizen groups and unions. Help them on issues they are concerned about and they will help you.
- Always look for opportunities to issue a press release about our issues and concerns.
Never give up or surrender; we have won battles that were not winnable and we have reversed previous losses. Sometimes we win because we were more powerful; sometimes we win because we were right. Even when we have lost a good fight the membership and the community appreciates that the union made a good effort.
Applying for Trade Adjustment Assistance
Millions of workers in America have lost their jobs because of corporations moving jobs to areas of the world where they can pay lower wages and usually no benefits. NAFTA was the first attack and now big business and the government want FTAA, the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. Even without special treaties, hundreds of thousands of jobs are moving to China.
To offset the job loss, Congress passed the Trade Adjustment Act (TAA) in 1974 and amended it in 2002. This law provides extra money for workers who lose their jobs due to imports or movement of work to other countries. It in no way makes up for the loss of good paying jobs but UE Stewards should know about it and use it if necessary.
- Find out who at the local unemployment office is assigned to help with TAA petitions. Make friends with them because you will need people who know how to cut through the red tape.
- Once you file a petition for TAA notify your Congressperson and find out who on their staff will work with the union in getting the TAA petition approved. With so many workers being laid off there are thousands of petitions being filed and it helps to have someone in Washington keeping an eye on the process.
- If the layoffs are substantial, make the TAA people come to a meeting the union arranges to explain how all the benefits works. It can get complicated and their job is to explain how it works.
Trade Adjustment Assistance Basic Facts
The TAA Program provides aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose hours of work and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports.
Workers whose employment is adversely affected by increased imports may apply for TAA. Workers may be eligible for training, job search and relocation allowances, income support and other reemployment services.
How to Apply
A petition for TAA may be filed by a group of three or more workers, their union or other duly authorized representative. Petition forms may be obtained from the local State Employment Security Agency or from any agency designated by the governor to provide reemployment services under the TAA program; or you can phone 202-693-3560 or write to the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Division of Trade Adjustment Assistance, Room C-5311, 200 Constitution Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210. You can find the petitions online at www.doleta.gov/tradeact/
If a petition is filed by a union or company official, only one petitioner signature is required. Otherwise, the petition must be signed by at least three workers.
To be eligible for TAA benefits, you must have been laid off or put on a reduced work schedule (hours of work reduced to 80 percent or less of your average weekly hours and wages reduced to 80 percent or less of your average weekly wage) on or after the "Impact Date" and before the ending date of certification.
Once your worker group has been certified by the U.S. Department of Labor, go to the nearest local office of your State Unemployment Insurance (UI) agency and file an application for a determination of your individual eligibility for TAA. Your application will be taken by a staff member of the State UI agency and a determination made as to whether you are eligible.
Establishing Eligibility for TAA
In order for the U.S. Department of Labor to issue a Certification Regarding Eligibility to Apply for Worker Adjustment Assistance, the following requirements must be met:
- that workers have been totally or partially laid off, and
- that sales or productions have declined, and
- that increased imports have contributed importantly to worker layoffs.
Once the U.S. Department of Labor issues a Certification Regarding Eligibility, trade affected workers may apply for benefits under the TAA program.
Training for employment in another job or career. Workers may receive up to 104 weeks of approved training in occupational skills, basic or remedial education, or training in literacy or English as a second language.
Income Support known as trade readjustment allowances (TRA) are weekly cash payments available for 52 weeks after a worker's unemployment compensation (UC) benefit is exhausted and during the period in which a worker is participating in an approved full-time training program. Income Support is a combination of UC and TRA benefits for a maximum of 78 weeks (26 weeks for UC and 52 weeks for TRA).
Job Search Allowance may be payable to cover expenses incurred in seeking employment outside your normal commuting area.
Relocation Allowances provide reimbursement for approved expenses if you are successful in obtaining employment outside your normal commuting area for you to relocate to your new area of employment.
Additional Benefits through the TAA Reform Act of 2002
- Alternative TAA Program for impacted workers 50 years and older. Some workers in firms with a significant number of workers over age 50 without easily transferable skills that find reemployment may choose (in lieu of other TAA benefits) to receive 50% of the difference between their new salary and old salary for two years, up to a maximum of $10,000 and also may receive health care assistance.
- 26 additional weeks of income support for workers participating in training - the maximum TAA income support period increases from 52 to 78 weeks, which, together with 26 weeks of UI, could result in a maximum of 104 weeks of income support.
- Allows workers whose training includes remedial education an additional 26 weeks of income support - for a maximum of 130 weeks.
- Increases caps on one-time payments for job search and relocation from $800 to $1,250.