Press Releases

Today, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Improvement Act with 75 original co-sponsors, including U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), the Ranking Member on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has oversight of American trade policy and U.S. Rep. Benjamin Cardin, Ranking Member on the Trade Subcommittee. The U.S. manufacturing sector has been hit hard with unemployment, and in recent years the service sector has experienced similar declines in employment as a result of the increasingly global and competitive marketplace.

Currently, TAA provides income support, job training, job searching, relocation assistance and health care tax credits to workers who have lost their jobs due to trade. However, TAA is only available to workers in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors.  The new legislation would extend trade TAA benefits to displaced service workers, such as software programmers, hi-tech workers as well as to entire industries if those industries are subject to a trade remedy under US laws that protect domestic industries.  The legislation also amends eligibility requirements for TAA to cover those who lose jobs due to overseas production to any country, not just those countries with whom the U.S. has trade agreements. The bill simplifies the application process for wage insurance. In addition, the legislation strengthens the data collection and reporting requirements by making it mandatory for the Department of Labor to track and make public data on both service sector and manufacturing job trends and TAA usage. Finally, it dramatically increases the funding cap for job training programs and enhances health care subsidies for displaced workers.

“Our nation’s prosperity and economic growth is dependent on our workers’ ability to continually upgrade their skills,” said Smith. “In the face of ever greater global competition, we need to ensure that American workers remain the best and most highly skilled workforce in the world.  The TAA program is an important component of our commitment to workers. This bill recognizes the reality of our changing economy and provides critically important wage and health insurance to those seeking to regain employment.”

Bill Center, the President of the Washington Council on International Trade said, “Worker dislocation is one of the major challenges facing the U.S. economy. Even though trade is but one small component of that problem, anything we can do to better facilitate the ability of our workforce to more smoothly and easily transition between jobs and careers should be applauded. We appreciate Representative Smith’s consistent strong leadership on this issue and look forward to the day these benefits will be available to all displaced workers.”

Smith’s legislation has also received support from members of the labor community.

Kristin Farr, Legislative Director for Society of Professional Engineer Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) and also legislative director for International Federation of Professional Technical Engineers (IFPTE) 2001, said that, “while displaced manufacturing and agricultural workers have benefited from TAA for many years, America's growing population of service sector workers have been left out.  Representative Smith's legislation is critical to promoting the competitiveness of our hard-working American workforce because it provides the necessary funding for retraining that displaced workers need. Current TAA legislation only applies to SPEEA members who worked in Boeing's Commercial Airplane division.  Representative Smith’s legislation could extend TAA benefits to those laid off SPEEA members who worked on a Boeing defense program or an IT job within Boeing's Shared Services Group (SSG).”

Marcus Courtney, President of the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WASHTECH), noted that, “like the manufacturing sector, those in the service sector are increasingly being affected due to job loss from world trade.  This legislation will allow those affected greater access to health care, retraining and unemployment insurance benefits as they make the transition.”

Smith will continue to work with his colleagues in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that American workers have access to the retraining and health care benefits they need. The changes included in this bill will help workers maintain comprehensive, affordable benefits for themselves and their families.


Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement today on the death of Civil Rights Leader Rosa Parks:

"Sometimes leaders are born out of the steely determination of a quiet individual. This was Rosa Parks. Nearly half a century ago, she refused to comply with a racist law and she lit the spark of the civil rights battle in the middle of the 20th Century in the United States. It was that battle that empowered millions of citizens and continues today as we work to fulfill America's promise of equality of all. She was a woman of dignity and a lifelong fighter of equal rights for all Americans. Today, we honor the memory of a woman who had the courage to, in one act of simply sitting down, stood up for equal rights for all Americans. Her legacy is one of equality for all and America is a better place because of Rosa Parks."

Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), an original cosponsor of H.R. 758, the Aerospace Revitalization Act, is pleased that this important legislation passed unanimously out of the U.S. House of Representatives today. The bill coordinates federal and private-sector aerospace workforce development efforts through the establishment of an interagency taskforce. It implements a key recommendation from the 2002 bipartisan Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry report to the President to counter what it termed “the nation’s apathy toward developing a scientifically and technologically trained workforce.”

“The United States aerospace industry is a driver in the United States economic competitiveness, particularly in the Puget Sound region,” said Smith. “The catalyst for economic development is retention and new opportunities and, yet, almost 30 percent of the aerospace manufacturing workforce will become eligible for retirement in 2008.  The panel will address this shortage and take existing federal resources to identify new aerospace workforce training and recruitment opportunities through scholarships, grants and loan programs as well as alliances with the private sector and state governments.”

The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Recognizing the fact that millions of Americans carry cell phones with them throughout the day, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced a concurrent resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives expressing the sense of Congress that all Americans should program their cell phones and other portable electronic devices to show personal emergency contacts under the acronym ICE (In Case of Emergency) to enable emergency personnel to contact family and friends in the event of an emergency.

“This is a non-partisan issue and is a simple step that Americans can take right now,” said Smith. “We never want something bad to happen, but if a situation arises where a person is incapacitated, someone on-scene can grab the person’s cell phone or Blackberry and get in touch with their emergency contacts. This is something that can take less than a minute to program, but when time is short, this easy step can save hours and provide peace of mind to individuals and their families.”

Smith hopes that he will get bi-partisan support on his resolution and that the House passes it swiftly.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my disappointment for the federal government’s delayed response to Hurricane Katrina.  I am extremely concerned about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael Brown and call for his resignation.

Brown and his senior leadership team have demonstrated a stunning level of ineptitude that made the disaster of Katrina and the loss of life and property much worse than it had to be.  This tragic event has made clear that the FEMA team is not up to the job of protecting Americans from either natural disasters or from any possible terrorist attack.  Security is a paramount concern to me and Americans deserve a competent and able emergency management agency.  Now that it is proven that this team is incapable, we can’t afford to wait to replace Director Brown. 

I also strongly disagree with the suggestion – made by many in the Administration and the majority – that Americans shouldn’t “point fingers” or play the “blame game” as the relief effort continues.  Thousands of lives are at stake right now.  We are also spending billions of public dollars on the recovery and those resources must be spent effectively and efficiently.  We need an experienced team now to implement the government’s plan for repairing the southeast region, not after a lengthy review process.  While I support that broader review, one thing is immediately clear: the director of FEMA is plainly not up to the important job at hand. 

Consider the following critically important facts.

Despite days of warning, FEMA did virtually nothing to prepare for the impact of Katrina.  Director Brown reportedly waited five hours after Katrina struck before he proposed to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff that he send 1,000 Homeland Security workers into the region to support rescuers.  Even then, his letter gave personnel two full days to arrive on the scene to begin offering assistance.  It was five agonizing days before FEMA and DHS showed up in any significant numbers with adequate supplies to help the tens of thousands of people in New Orleans. 

Equally disturbing are the efforts of FEMA and others in the Administration to explain away these inexcusable actions.  Claims have been made that local leaders in Louisiana did not ask for help and that the federal government could not have foreseen that the levees around New Orleans would be breeched in the event of a significant hurricane.  The utter absurdity of these claims makes it even clearer that we need new leadership at FEMA if Americans are to have any confidence that the agency will wisely and effectively deal with the continuing crisis in the Gulf Coast, much less prepare for future natural disasters or terrorist attacks.  

First, locals did ask for help before the storm hit and FEMA assumed responsibility for dealing with the fallout from Katrina.  Louisiana’s Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency for Louisiana on August 26th and on August 27th, she requested federal support. On that same day, and acting on your authorization, Director Brown responded to Blanco's request for assistance and declared that FEMA would "mobilize equipment and resources necessary to protect public health and safety by assisting law enforcement with evacuations, establishing shelters, supporting emergency medical needs, meeting immediate lifesaving and life-sustaining human needs and protecting property, in addition to other emergency protective measures." 

Second, the coming disaster was clear.  Max Mayfield, the Director of the National Hurricane Center has confirmed that both Director Brown and Secretary Chertoff listened to his agency’s briefing on Katrina’s likely impact.  Maxfield made repeated warnings about the hurricane and was quoted by the New Orleans Times-Picayune as saying, "We were briefing them (FEMA and DHS) way before landfall. It’s not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped."  It is alarming that, given this knowledge, FEMA thought it was appropriate to sit back and wait instead of aggressively preparing for the disaster. 

Third, the vulnerability of the levees was well established.  Last year, FEMA conducted a simulation involving the potential evacuation of New Orleans as a result of a Hurricane.  For many years experts had been predicting that the levees could be breached by a hurricane and that the results would be disastrous, costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars.  In 2001, the Army Corps of Engineers conducted a study and found that the levees in the region needed to be updated, raised, and the pumping systems modernized.  In the event of a category 4 or 5 hurricane, like Hurricane Katrina, the levees would fail and the cities within the levees would be at risk of flooding.

Perhaps most troubling, federal officials knew from news reports and from Mayor Ray Nagin’s comments that tens of thousands of New Orleans residents would not be able to respond to the call to evacuate.  Despite this understanding, no action was taken to accommodate those who could not evacuate their city. 

I am deeply troubled by what this failure of leadership could portend for another disaster or attack.  Some of FEMA’s top positions have been staffed with individuals who have ample political and campaign experience, but virtually no understanding of how to prepare for and respond to a disaster of any magnitude.  We expect state and local responders to be well trained and qualified.  The same must be true of FEMA’s leaders.  There is no doubt that a new and better skilled leadership team at FEMA is required in order to best protect our nation.

The tragic events caused by Hurricane Katrina have left hundreds of thousands of Americans with shattered homes and families and without food and water.  I am committed to joining together to provide relief and to save as many lives as possible.  

I have seen the compassion of Americans as volunteers, donations and financial assistance has flowed into the southeast region.  We must now do our part repair the damaged region and assist in rebuilding the lives of many of our citizens.  I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to help the people in this devastated region.