Workers who have lost their jobs because the jobs were moved offshore or were lost to foreign workers might have a new chance to recover their losses through a Senate bill introduced July 23.
Proposed by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the bill seeks expansion of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides retraining, health and cash benefits to workers whose jobs are eliminated as a direct result of international trade.
"Our bill will make TAA [trade adjustment assistance] flexible enough to respond to workers needs regardless of what they do or where challenges are coming from," Bausch said in a statement.
In potentially the largest expansion of the TAA in its 45-year history, the program—which largely excludes IT professionals, focusing instead on blue-collar workers—will now include computer programmers, call center staff and other technology employees who make up the bulk of those who have been shortchanged in outsourcing relationships.
"Though the TAA has been around for three decades, it has only enabled benefits for those who produce articles and who have been displaced by foreign competition. As it stands, textile and steel workers—and only recently, those manufacturing tangible software—receive benefits under this program," Roger Cochetti, group director of U.S. public policy for CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association), an IT industry advocacy group, said in a statement.
The new legislation would double funding for individual retraining to $440 million annually, and broaden TAA policies. Over five years, the bill also would authorize $300 million to create a new program to help communities affected by trade as well as bring the current authorized funding that helps companies cope with foreign competition to $50 million annually, effectively tripling it.
The United States has a responsibility to help service workers because trade liberalization initiatives are a policy choice, Snowe said.
CompTIA was quick to publicly welcome the Senates proposal.
"The benefits of free trade are clear and unequivocal," Cochetti said. "As it pertains to the IT sector, more IT jobs, industry growth and diffusion of productivity-enhancing IT have resulted through trading with our foreign partners. This must continue and expand."
Saying that hed rather support an improved trade assistance program than impose limitations on international trade, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke encouraged Congress on July 18 to create a program that provides help to those who lose their job as a result of offshoring.