Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer and Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has approved a much-needed Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) certification for laid-off workers at Alcoa in Massena. The approval of the TAA certification means former employees can now apply for critical TAA benefits.
Last fall, Alcoa announced that it would be shutting down its Massena smelter and laying off more than 480 workers. This decision was changed in an agreement reached in November 2015 between New York State and Alcoa where the company will continue operating in Massena for the next three years, keeping at least 600 people employed at the plant and reducing the number of layoffs to between 80 and 100. The secured TAA benefits are available to workers impacted by this most recent layoff as well as any Alcoa layoffs going back to December 15, 2014.
“I fought to get this federal assistance for Alcoa workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and now deserve every opportunity to get the retraining and the support they need to find their next job and continue providing for their families,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “This Federal Trade Adjustment Assistance will provide Alcoa workers with new training and help them acquire the right skills to find new jobs. These workers should have never been faced with this problem in the first place and I’ll continue fighting to make sure they have every available resource to find new jobs and succeed.”
“This is some much-needed good news for the Alcoa workers and their families who just lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” said Schumer. “The agreement Governor Cuomo and I forged with Alcoa was a major victory for the North Country that saved hundreds of jobs, but it’s just as important that we help take care of the smaller number of Alcoa workers who were laid off. This designation means they’ll receive the assistance and training they need to find another job and quickly get back on their feet.”
“Our administration remains committed to protecting and supporting the hard working New Yorkers who could potentially be impacted by Alcoa’s actions. This announcement ensures that those workers will have the very best training and services available to help them get back on their feet and I want to thank our Senators and the federal Labor Department for helping us address this issue,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
“Our Senators and Governor should be commended for working to ensure that displaced workers receive the necessary benefits to provide financial support, as well as job training services and job search support,” said Timmy J. Currier, Mayor of the Village of Massena. “Once again, they continue to show leadership in looking out for the well being of workers and the middle class.”
“The approval for federal TAA benefits is critical help for the laid-off Alcoa workers by offering job training and other resources that they deserve,” said Robert Smith, President of the United Steelworkers 420. “I would like to thank Senator Gillibrand for her letter supporting our TAA application, and for her support and the support of Governor Cuomo, U.S. Senator Schumer, and NYS Senator Griffo in fighting for a future for Alcoa in the North Country.”
“This is great news for our community,” said Joseph Gray, Supervisor of the Town of Massena. “Thank you to the Governor and our Senators for their assistance. This will make a difficult situation much better.”
After intervention from Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Governor Cuomo for the TAA, it’s now estimated that 205 workers are now eligible for this added assistance on top of their unemployment benefits by the Department of Labor.
TAA is a federal program established under the Trade Act of 1974 for workers whose employment is adversely affected by increased imports and shifts in production outside the U.S. This program provides a range of benefits and reemployment services, such as:
- Training for employment in another job or career. Workers are eligible for training in occupational skills, basic or remedial education, or training in literacy or English as a second language. Workers may also receive employment services such as case management, skills assessment, and job search assistance.
- Income Support. Workers can receive weekly cash payments called trade readjustment allowances (TRA) after a worker’s unemployment compensation benefit is exhausted and during the period in which a worker is participating in an approved full-time training program.
- Job Search Allowance. Workers can get reimbursed for expenses incurred in seeking employment outside their normal commuting area.
- Relocation Allowances. Workers can receive reimbursement for approved expenses if they are successful in obtaining employment outside their normal commuting area and they need to relocate
Senator Gillibrand’s letter to the Department of Labor is included here and below.
January 12, 2016
The Honorable Thomas E. Perez
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington DC 20210
Dear Secretary Perez
I write in support of the petition filed by employees of Alcoa, Inc. in Massena, New York on December 15, 2015 for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). Specifically, the TAA will support 85 employees who have or will be separated from their work at Alcoa due to hourly reductions.
Alcoa is a leading supplier of alumina and aluminum, an industry that has been adversely affected by the increase in Chinese aluminum productions. In September 2015, Alcoa announced a major restructuring with plans to split into two companies, separating their smelting and refining business from their manufacturing operations. Soon after in November, Alcoa announced as part of their world-wide restructuring, and in response to low primary aluminum prices that some plants would be idled and their employees terminated, including at their Massena site.
This news has dealt a blow to New York’s North Country region. The area has a long history with the company, with Alcoa’s Massena plant serving as the longest continually operating aluminum operation in the world. With approximately 730 workers and a local economic impact of $340 million a year, Alcoa is one of the largest employers in the North Country.
Certification of this petition will open up eligibility to these workers for much-needed federal benefits, such as job training, income support, job search and relocation allowances and other critical assistance, for these dislocated workers. TAA will provide impacted employees with the necessary support to learn new skills or further develop an existing skill set, eventually allowing them to take advantage of opportunities for new employment.
These announced layoffs will greatly impact a region of the state that already suffers from some of the highest unemployment in New York, so I urge you to give this petition your full consideration and ensure that all available resources are made available to assist dislocated workers and help the broader region recover from this loss.
United States Senator