Foreign trade competition closed plant?
Published 12:00 am Monday, December 27, 1999
Ironton Iron workers in February’s unemployment lines could find extra federal help, if Intermet’s decision to close the foundry came because of foreign business competition, U.
Monday, December 27, 1999
Ironton Iron workers in February’s unemployment lines could find extra federal help, if Intermet’s decision to close the foundry came because of foreign business competition, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland said.
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"One of the things I will look at at the federal level is an evaluation by the (U.S.) Department of Labor of whether or not the loss of contracts is a result of our trade policies," Strickland said.
In other words, if a policy enacted by Congress made it easier for a foreign business to compete with an American business, and if that American business lost jobs or wages because of that competition, then federal Trade Adjustment Assistance can be given to those workers, he said.
If a link is made between Intermet’s closure announced Dec. 7 and foreign competition, there are government resources available, such as more worker retraining monies and extended medical insurance coverage for plant employees, Strickland said.
"It’s assistance for helping families with the essential financial obligations," he said.
The trade adjustment monies could also extend unemployment benefits, local human services officials said.
But the funds must be applied for through the union, by workers or by the employer, and there is an indication that Intermet will cooperate, said Strickland, who met with company leaders last week.
Intermet is willing to sell the Ironton foundry for $1, if an appropriate buyer can be found. The buyer must be able to work the plant, meet its obligations and assume Ironton Iron’s liabilities, company officials said.
"I think it’s too early to say if that’s good or bad news," Strickland said, adding that local officials should still rely on developing all the county’s industrial sites.
There also is no other federal aid planned for employees facing a future without jobs, Strickland said.
"The major thing is if we can make the link to foreign trade," he said. "That makes it possible for very significant resources."
According to the Department of Labor, that is a "very active possibility," Strickland said.
It will take the department some time to analyze data, so the time a decision will come is not known, he said.
But given the seriousness of the situation, the department should expedite its investigation, he added.
In the meantime, state officials are sending the Ironton workers a Rapid Response Team, whose sole purpose will be to assist out-of-work employees find a new job.
A group of union leaders and Job Training Partnership Act officials also are organizing a transition center. About $50,000 is available to boost computer job searches on Ohio Job Net and America’s Job Bank, and to provide family or career counseling.
Although detailed plans cannot be made until definite layoff dates are known, the county Department of Human Services is preparing for a large layoff of workers.
Workers there will personalize services to those losing jobs and will provide packets explaining possible benefits and who qualifies for food stamps, medical cards for children and cash assistance.a