Obama’s Labor Department is trying to spare the president the embarrassment of having hundreds of thousands of layoff notices arrive in the mail just before Election Day, including in the crucial swing state of Virginia. It issued a guidance yesterday to defense contractors that just happened to advise them not to send federally-required warnings to their employees that they could get pink slipped because Washington can’t get the budget under control.
At issue is a regulation called the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice Act, which requires federal contractors, especially ones with Pentagon contracts, to send notices to their workers 60 days before their contract is expected to terminate. The point is to give the workers a heads up and time to get new employment or seek training.
That’s relevant because Congress is currently trying to prevent what’s been dubbed “sequestration,” a $110 billion budget cut, half coming from defense, that will take place on Jan. 2, 2013, if they cannot reach agreement on a deficit reduction package. Well, there is currently no agreement, sequestration is looming and both sides are pointing fingers over this.
Well, 60 days before Jan. 2 is Nov. 2. Election Day this year falls on Nov. 6. The Aerospace Industries Association estimates that as many as 2.14 million jobs could be affected. That’s an awful lot of layoff warnings days before an election – and Republicans having doing their best to pin the blame on the White House.
Well, the Labor Department announcement out yesterday said:
Questions have recently been raised as to whether the WARN Act requires Federal contractors – including, in particular, contractors of the Department of Defense (DOD) – whose contracts may be terminated or reduced in the event of sequestration on January 2, 2013, to provide WARN Act notices 60 days before that date to their workers employed under government contracts funded from sequestrable accounts. The answer is “no.” In fact, to provide such notice would be inconsistent with the purpose of the WARN Act.
The announcement’s reasoning is that the notices are not intended to go to workers who have only a “speculative chance” of being laid off and it still possible that Congress will prevent sequestration. Therefore the notices aren’t needed.
To give notice to workers who will not suffer an employment loss both wastes the states’ resources in providing rapid response activities where none are needed and creates unnecessary uncertainty and anxiety in workers.
Should sequestration happen – or even appear likely – some voters presumably blame the Republicans but will that number be more than the one blaming the Democrats and the White House? Apparently the administration is not eager to find out.