Canada Hydro Power Competition Triggers TAA Benefits for Brayton Point Workers
When Dynegy announced the closing of Brayton Point, the largest coal-fired power plant in New England, the National Union and Local 464 fought hard to keep it open.
After the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected their argument that the company’s decision resulted from an attempt to manipulate the price of electricity, a decision being appealed, union officials dug deep into their toolbox to get the most they possibly could for their members.
Among the tools they used was the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance, which includes protections for workers who are adversely affected by foreign competition, in this case Canadian hydropower.
Citing the “increased import of power produced in Canada and the closing of coal-burning power plants in New England due to inability to compete in costs” as the reason for their plant being shuttered, the Department of Labor awarded TAA benefits to 52 Local 464 members.
“What we try to do if we can’t stop a plant from closing is minimize the number of layoffs and help people find jobs if they are layed off,” explains UWUA Region I Senior National Representative, Dan Hurley. “We all fought right up to the end to make sure our members got everything they are entitled to, including, in this case, federal TAA benefits.”
The TAA is a federal program established under the Trade Act of 1974 that provides aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose hours of work and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports.
“Labor unions fought long and hard to win TAA benefits for workers and we continue the fight to keep them,” says Bob Bower from the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and a key player in winning the benefits for Local 464 members. “These trade benefits are Cadillac benefits and include two years worth of unemployment and retraining opportunities. We’ve seen people’s lives changed for the better with these benefits.”
The TAA program offers a variety of benefits and reemployment services to help unemployed workers prepare for and obtain suitable employment. Workers may be eligible for training, job search and relocation allowances, income support, and other reemployment services.
Working together, the UWUA and Bower gained the support of U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, who wrote letters to the DOL in support of the Brayton Point workers.
A petition for TAA may be filed by a group of three or more workers, their union, or other duly authorized representative.