GOP Blocks Aid to Trade Displaced Workers

House Republicans have this week blocked a vote on a bill that would extend training and unemployment benefits to workers who lost their job as a result of foreign trade. The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) reauthorization bill was pulled from the House floor as Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, expressed his intentions to use the bill as leverage for the passage of pending free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.

“The GOP’s recent refusal to vote on a program that, since 1962, has helped to retrain, educate and find work for tens of thousands of workers impacted by our country’s unfair trade laws, is another slap in the face to working families trying to keep their head above water,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “And to use the bill as leverage for more unfair trade laws is unthinkable. Panama remains a tax haven for U.S. and foreign corporations. And, Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists and human rights’ activists. It is imperative Congress take action to extend TAA benefits immediately.”

The TAA program was extended to service workers as part of the Recovery Act in 2009. Since that time, an estimated 400,000 workers have been certified to receive TAA services, including 170,000 workers who may not have otherwise been eligible. The extended benefits are set to expire February 12, 2011.