Looking at TAA Worker Eligibility Last Year — Some Observations and Questions

Now that reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is all but a done deal — a quid pro quo from Republican leadership to President Obama and his union allies to get him to submit three pending trade agreements — it’s useful to look at who the recipients were over the past year to get an idea about how the new monies, to the tune of $1.17 billion per year, will be spent. Remember that TAA provides unemployment payments, retraining, relocation expenses, and other payments to workers who ostensibly lost their jobs because of foreign competition.

First the workers’ group has to be certified by the U.S. Department of Labor that they meet three criteria for eligibility to apply for TAA assistance. DOL has a searchable website with their determinations, and the following random examples are taken from their listings from January 1, 2010, through December 30, 2010.

Here’s one example of a certification for payment eligibility by the U.S. Department of Labor to workers at All American Sports Group Corporation. These workers refurbished football helmets and claimed that they were harmed by the company shifting “the supply of like or directly competitive services to a foreign country.”

Not only were all regular workers  certified but also temporary workers from Manpower Staffing Services and Kelly Services.  Plus, if one reads closely, even workers “threatened with total or partial separation from employment” are eligible to apply for assistance. And that’s not an uncommon example.  Take Solo Cup Operating Corporation, which makes single service cups.  Pretty much the same determination was made that regular and leased workers were eligible for TAA.  It must be a failing on my part — I thought that temporary workers were, well, temporary.

Or look at CertainTeed Corporation in Pennsylvania, which makes a wide variety of building materials.  Their workers in Mountain Top, PA, were certified as eligible for losing employment because of foreign competition. That’s surprising, because according to its website, CertainTeed is “a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, one of the top 100 industrial companies in the world. Saint-Gobain employs approximately 22,000 people in North America and more than 109,000 people in 64 countries world-wide.”

That leads to a question: Have their Pennsylvania workers been helped or harmed by globalization? Would those and the 22,000 jobs in North America exist without globalization?

Here’s another one that’s puzzling — Georgia Pacific Wood Products. It seems that the workers at Georgia Pacific in West Virginia who helped produce oriented strand board (similar to plywood) are eligible because some lost their jobs because some oriented strand board came from Canada. But the certification says that all workers of Georgia Pacific Wood Products, LLC are eligible.

In looking at the company’s web site – its headquarters are in Atlanta, GA — the company is also a multi-national firm — “employs more than 40,000 people at approximately 300 locations in North America, South America and Europe.”

And it seems that there are a fair number of job openings at their facilities in Prosperity, South Carolina. Could it be that some of those jobs in WV moved to SC? Only speculation, and I’ll accept correction if needed.