The crises of covid, climate, and rising inequality mean big economic changes are coming. Workers and communities should not have to pay the cost of those transitions! New legislation from Contra Costa’s own Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) would require large corporations planning close or lay off workers to pay into an Impacted Workers Fund, which would be used to help financially support people who will lose their jobs and other businesses that may be affected by the closure.
The Justice for Dislocated Workers Act (H.R. 8583), would “require large corporations to evaluate, consider, and ultimately mitigate the impacts to the local workforce and economy a possible closure or downsizing may have,” according to the announcement when the bill was filed October 16.
“Businesses are important economic drivers for our local communities– they provide jobs, contribute to the local tax base, and help create local supply chains – but they should not be treated with impunity. They need to be held to a higher standard and take responsibility for the role they play in the lives of their workers and the local economy. Instead of stoking the flames of inequality and runaway corporate power and greed, it’s time we put our workers back at the center of the conversation. If wealthy corporations won’t do it themselves, we’ll do it for them,” said Congressman DeSaulnier.
Currently, under federal law if a big corporation closes down a local plant to offshore that work or move somewhere else to get a tax break, it is only required to provide 60 days’ notice to affected employees, states, and localities. This is not enough time for people to prepare and does not hold the business accountable for the impact this closure will have. The Justice for Dislocated Workers Act would better prepare workers for this transition and help states and localities more promptly provide services to the dislocated workers and otherwise prepare for changes in the local labor market.
Specifically, H.R. 8583 requires corporations voluntarily closing or laying off workers to conduct an economic impact study to confront the real cost of their closure or relocation. If upon seeing the results of the impact their departure will have on the community the company still chooses to leave or close, it would be required to pay into an Impacted Workers Fund, which would be used to help financially support people who will lose their jobs and other businesses that may be affected by the closure. The bill also gives local government the right to sue a company that skirts its responsibilities in informing workers of a closure or neglecting to pay its due, increases the penalty for violating this law, and closes loopholes to protect part-time workers. Importantly, businesses able to prove financial hardship as the reason for their closure are exempt from these new rules. With special consideration for the coronavirus pandemic, the bill ensures that nothing would penalize companies for closing for reasons outside of their control.
You can read the bill here.
Congressman DeSaulnier is a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor and a former small business owner. Inspiration for this legislation came from his work on the Future of Work, Wages, and Labor initiative that he spearheaded.