Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hostess Workers Get Retraining

According to a US Department of Labor news release, 18,000 former Hostess workers (the makers of Twinkies and Ding Dongs) are now eligible to apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) training funding.

The federal TAA program, created in 1974, provides support to those workers who lost their jobs due to foreign trade.  To allow Hostess workers to receive this benefit, the Department of Labor had to determine whether the big layoff event that occurred in January (and caused a run in grocery stores for the snack foods) met the eligibility criteria spelled out in the Trade Act of 1974. The department’s investigation found that increased imports of baked products from other countries contributed to the company's sales declines and workers losing their jobs.  As a result, the TAA eligibility was granted to Hostess workers in 48 states, including the Hostess bakery stores in Modesto and Turlock.

The TAA eligible workers were engaged in activities related to the production, distribution and sale of baked goods such as bread, buns, rolls, snack cakes, doughnuts, sweet rolls and similar products.

 As part of the rules, the TAA program can be implemented if the federal Department of Labor finds that a significant number of workers at the company age 50 or over possess skills that are not easily transferable and that competitive conditions within the industry are adverse.

What do they get?

Those who qualify may receive case management and re-employment services, training in new occupational skills and/or trade readjustment allowances that provide income support for workers enrolled in training. Workers may also receive job search and relocation allowances, and the Health Coverage Tax Credit.

There are three different tracks an unemployed person under the TAA may follow:

1) Occupational Skills or Vocational Training

•Often offered through a  technical college: this includes college-level degrees or certificate programs along with necessary prerequisite courses through a TAA eligible training provider.

•Apprenticeship programs and skill focus training.

2) Remedial Education

•Remedial Education includes Adult Basic Education often in areas of math, English or reading skills, obtaining a High School equivalency credential (GED or HSED), or pursing a program titled English as a Second Language (or ESL) classes

3) Employer Based Training or On-The-Job (OJT) Training

•Contracts can be established between an employer and the participant of the TAA program to provide for training to take place at the employer site, for a set period of time. Payment is made to the employer to reimburse them for the cost they incur to provide training for their job openings.

While TAA is open to eligible workers of all ages, workers 50 years of age and older may elect to receive Re-employment Trade Adjustment Assistance instead. If a worker obtains new employment at wages less than $50,000 and less than those earned in the trade-impacted employment, the RTAA program will pay 50 percent of the difference between the old wage and the new wage, up to $10,000 over a two-year period. RTAA participants may also be eligible for retraining and the HCTC.

TAA can provide fully funded training, a health coverage subsidy, extended income support, and other benefits to dislocated workers whose companies move production or outsource to another country, or are forced to lay off workers or close plants due to increased imports and foreign competition.

Community Business College has trained students eligible for TAA assistance but usually as a result of manufacturers who moved their plants to other countries.

By the way, the snacks for which they were famous might be making a comeback as the remnants of the Hostess company announced in February that they are close to selling their Wonder Bread brand to Flowers Foods. Can the resurrection of Twinkies be far behind?

For more information on TAA and the range of the Department of Labor's employment and training services, visit the Community Business College educational site at .

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