Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the final certification of the petition for Trade Adjustment Assistance following the closing of the Olympic Panel Products plant in Shelton. Workers laid off at Olympic Panel Products or Simpson Sawmill in July and August of 2016 can now apply for individual benefits for two years.
“The Labor Department correctly identified these hard-working Americans as folks who lost their jobs due to the impact of foreign competition,” said Congressman Denny Heck, whose district includes Shelton. “These employees deserve a fair shot at another paycheck, and I’m glad we can provide them with the assistance to find a new place to report to work.”
On August 31, 2016, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, and U.S. Representatives Denny Heck (WA-10) and Derek Kilmer (WA-06) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor asking for timely consideration of the TAA petition.
“The recently-separated workers at OPP are facing a prolonged period of uncertainty,” the letter stated. “We ask for prompt and fair consideration of their request to allow them to plan and make critical decisions about their future.”
Heck voted in favor of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2015, which reauthorized Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers (TAA) until June 30, 2021. To be eligible for TAA, a group of workers must establish that they were separated from their employment either because their jobs moved outside the United States or because of an increase in directly competitive imports.
To establish eligibility for TAA benefits, a group of trade-affected workers must petition the Department of Labor (DOL) and a DOL investigation must verify the role of foreign trade in the workers’ job losses.
Full text of the letter:
August 31, 2016
The Honorable Portia Wu
Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington DC 20210
Dear Assistant Secretary Wu:
We write to request timely consideration of Olympic Panel Products’ petition for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).
Olympic Panel Products (OPP), located in Shelton, Washington, employs approximately 250 workers in and around communities which we represent, producing concrete forms, signage, and plywood. On May 22nd, a WARN notice was issued by OPP to announce that the OPP plant was closing, threatening all positions at the facility. Layoffs commenced in late July and continued to completion in August.
As documented in OPP’s petition, dated May 24, 2016, competition from cheaper imports directly competitive with the products manufactured at its facility in Shelton were key factors in the decision to shutter the facility. OPP workers impacted by previous rounds of job cuts were certified to receive assistance under TAA in 2009 and 2012. Workers at the Simpson Sawmill, previously co-located with OPP, are currently certified to receive TAA assistance.
The recently-separated workers at OPP are facing a prolonged period of uncertainty. We ask for prompt and fair consideration of their request to allow them to plan and make critical decisions about their future.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell
U.S. Representative Denny Heck
U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer