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November 21, 2019

Congressman Trone Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Worker Protections


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Congressman Trone Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Worker Protections

Legislation comes following the shutdown of Luke Mill in April

Washington, DC – Congressmen David Trone (MD-06) and Tim Ryan (OH-13) today introduced legislation to strengthen worker protections. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the companion bill in the Senate.

Reps. Trone and Ryan introduced the Fair Warning Act (H.R. 5205) which amends the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to strengthen worker protections by providing them with fair, advanced notice from layoffs or business closures. In 1988, Congress passed the WARN Act to give workers and communities 60 days advance notice to an impending site closing or mass layoff. However, the effectiveness of the existing WARN Act has been undermined by loopholes and weak enforcement. To read the full text of the bill, click here.

“When Verso abruptly closed Luke Mill earlier this year, they blindsided employees and sent a shock wave through the town of Luke and the entire region,” said Congressman Trone, member of the Education and Labor Committee. “Workers deserve better than losing their jobs with what feels like no warning. I’m committed to working in Congress to hold companies like Verso accountable, requiring them to treat employees with the respect they deserve.”

“On a Saturday night this year, over 500 hard-working Ohioans received a text message saying they were being abruptly laid off by Falcon Trucking. It was disgraceful, disrespectful, and a slap in the face to these dedicated workers,” said Congressman Ryan. “They deserve better than losing their jobs – their livelihoods – without any notice. With the Fair Warning Act, Congress is putting an end to this kind of shameful practice, strengthening worker protections and holding businesses accountable. It’s far past time that workers in Ohio and across the country are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

A GAO report in 2003 reported that the WARN Act covered only 24% of all layoffs, mostly due to limitations in the current law. Also, employers did not notify workers in two-thirds of the layoffs and closures where the WARN Act applied because the law includes several exceptions that the employers can invoke. Weak enforcement of workers’ rights in the current law also encourages businesses to continue finding ways to get around this law.

To address these shortcomings and support workers’ rights, we introduced the Fair Warning Act of 2019 to strengthen Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) requirements. Important changes are proposed in the areas of (1) notifications before site closings and mass layoffs, and (2) administration and enforcement of the requirements. Specifically, the Fair Warning Act of 2019:

  • Redefines the terms “affected employee,” “employer,” “site closing,” “mass layoff,” and “employment loss” for purposes of the Act,
  • Requires an employer to give 90-day (increased from 60-day) written notice to employees and appropriate state and local governments before ordering a site closing or mass layoff,
  • Applies the requirements to employers of 50 or more employees (reduced from 100 employees), including any parent company of which the business is a subsidiary,
  • Lowers the mass layoff thresholds for triggering these requirements,
  • Requires an employer to notify the U.S. Secretary of Labor and the governor of the state in which the closing or layoff will occur, with the Secretary subsequently required to inform corresponding Congressional offices,
  • Grants the U.S. Secretary of Labor authority to investigate and respond to complaints,
  • Requires an employer to provide affected employees with information about the employee’s rights and the benefits and services available to them, including unemployment compensation, COBRA health benefits, and onsite access to rapid response teams, and
  • Increases the penalties for employer violations of these requirements.

Congressman David Trone was elected to the House of Representatives in November 2018 to serve the 6th District of Maryland. Since Verso announced that it would close its paper mill in Luke on April 30, 2019, Congressman Trone has fought for the workers and town of Luke. In May, Congressman Trone and Senators Cardin and Van Hollen wrote to the Secretary of Labor urging support for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) application for Luke mill workers. In July, the trio announced that the TAA application was accepted.