Today, Senator Maria Cantwell along with U.S. Rep. Adam Smith sent a letter to the Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao applauding the Department's decision to "allow, for the first time, workers who produce 'intangible products,' like software, to benefit from TAA [Trade Adjustment Assistance]," that "represents an important and long-overdue change in the Department's policy."
However, the letter notes that the decision to extend TAA eligibility to workers who produce software "was made only after several years of litigation and represents just a small step towards ensuring that the TAA program meets the needs of today's diverse workforce."
"This is fundamentally about fairness," said Cantwell. "In today's global market where so much of our economic growth is in the IT sector, we need to make sure that IT workers have access to the same retraining opportunities when they are displaced as other workers currently do. Every American worker deserves access to additional training and education so they can update their skills and continue to contribute to the growth of our economy."
The letter also notes that legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Baucus and sponsored by Cantwell (S. 1309) and introduced in the House by Smith and Rangel (H.R. 4156) to extend TAA benefits to all service sector workers adversely impacted by foreign competition, "including information technology (IT) workers, engineers, customer services and call center employees."
"Extending TAA benefits to all service workers must be a priority," said Smith. "Hard-working Americans will be better able to compete in the global marketplace if we make a real investment in education and retraining opportunities."
The letter also urges support for efforts to broaden the eligibility criteria for TAA to include all service workers.
"It is time for the U.S. Government to recognize that the global economy is changing," said Marcus Courtney, President of the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, a local chapter of the Communications Workers of America. "Today service sector workers, like their manufacturing counterparts, need TAA assistance to retrain themselves to meet the changing demands of the labor market. Congress should use the new decision by the Department of Labor as the guide post that TAA program does need to include more workers and pass TAA reform legislation this year"