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Past Experience: Worker Assistance after Big Industrial Changes in the 1980s


Help given in the 1980s was only partly effective. The people who moved did better, but few were willing to move.

"Process and Implementation Issues in the Design and Conduct of Programs to Aid The Reemployment and Dislocated Workers"

Mathematica 1984. They stress good training and case management; Workforce Investment Boards, which would administer NewDay, have evaluations to try to ensure good training and case management.


"SUMMARY The Department of Labor awarded grants to organizations in six areas to implement one-year demonstration programs during the 1983 federal fiscal year aimed at assisting the readjustment of dislocated workers. These areas were Alameda County, CA; Buffalo, NY; Lehigh Valley, PA; Mid-Willamette Valley, OR; Milwaukee, WI; and Yakima, WA. This report addresses issues pertaining to the operational feasibility and programmatic outcomes of alternative replicable approaches for providing employment-related services to dislocated workers. Among the findings and recommendations presented in the report are the following:

(1) programs should target their services toward workers in declining industries and not necessarily limit their services to workers from specific plants;

(2) the services offered should include job-search assistance, job development, and retraining;

(3) training areas, providers, and recipients must be selected with great care to ensure that the trainees have the ability and aptitude to complete training, that the training is competently delivered at reasonable cost, and that employment opportunities are available for completers;

(4) a case management approach to service delivery tends to improve performance;

(5) the average costs per participant of providing a comprehensive set of job-search-assistance services was about $700, on-the-job training was about $1,400, and classroom training was about $2,000; and finally

(6) placement rates ranged from 30 to 80 percent in the demonstration sites."

"Displaced workers of 1979-83: how well have they fared?"

in 1985-Monthly Labor Review has overall outcomes, and summarizes two local studies. They say this about moving:

"Moving to another area . Only a small minority of the 5 .1 million displaced workers (680,000) moved to a different city or county to look for work or to take a different job. However, of those who did move, a higher proportion were reemployed in January 1984-almost 3 in 4, in contrast to 3 in 5 of the nonmovers. (See table 7.) Men were more likely to move than women, and of the male movers, proportionately more were reemployed (77 percent) than was the case for their women counterparts (60 percent) . Relatively few older workers relocated-only 6 percent among those 55 and over. However, even among them, about three fifths of those who moved were working again, a substantially higher proportion than for nonmovers."

They summarize local studies:

"special case studies evaluating the effectiveness of Department of Labor programs for displaced workers, particularly displaced auto and steel workers, are another valuable source of information on this topic. In order to obtain information on the effectiveness of various types of assistance which might be provided to displaced workers, the Department of Labor funded a series of pilot projects in 1980-83 . One project, the Downriver Community Conference Economic Readjustment Program, served laid-off automotive workers from the Detroit metropolitan area .' Among the findings from this demonstration study are the following:

1. The displaced workers were predominantly men, aged 25 to 44, and married. Most had graduated from high school ; however, when tested in the program, one-fifth scored below a sixth grade literacy level. They had, on average, worked more than 10 years on the lost job-and they had earned about $10 an hour.

2. Depending upon the particular plant from which they had been laid off, the workers were found to have received either unemployment insurance benefits, or unemployment insurance coupled with company-funded supplemental unemployment benefits, or, in some cases, both of these benefits as well as trade adjustment assistance, which was paid to those whose jobs were deemed to have been lost because of imports. Therefore, some of the workers had their prelayoff earnings almost entirely replaced by benefits, at least for a time .

3. Although resources were made available to the workers for job search and relocation outside their area, only 8 percent of the program enrollees relocated. About 20 percent of those who relocated subsequently returned .

4. Two years after the job loss, only about 50 percent of the workers in the program had found another job. The reemployment rate declined the longer the workers remained in the program, and this reflected in part the worsening labor market conditions in the Detroit area during that particular period.

5. On average, the earnings of participants who became reemployed were more than 30 percent below their prelayoff earnings .

"The Department of Labor had also funded a pilot program in Buffalo, New York (among other sites), the aim of which was to assist displaced workers, largely from auto and steel jobs . In this demonstration, it was found that the reemployed workers were placed in jobs paying a mean wage of about $6.50 an hour, a decline from a mean pre-layoff hourly wage of more than $10 an hour. The program participants were primarily men, between their mid-20's and mid-40's, most with a high school education. Nearly 70 percent of the participants were reemployed at the time of the project's termination, with the younger workers being slightly more likely to be placed in jobs than were the others .

"Some additional data on displaced workers are available from a sample of 379 workers from a population of about 11,000 workers on indefinite layoff from a major automobile manufacturer in April 1983 .11 The survey, which was funded by the Department of Commerce, was conducted by the University of Michigan from November 1983 to January 1984. Among the findings are the following:

"Auto workers who were recalled to jobs with their previous employer reported a mean hourly wage of $12.26, with a weekly gross pay of $490.42. In contrast, the other reemployed workers cited a mean hourly wage of $7.42 and an average weekly gross pay of $314.70 .

"Of the 379 respondents, 30 percent had been recalled to their old jobs at the time of the survey, 25 percent were employed elsewhere, about 35 percent were looking for work, and 10 percent were no longer in the labor force. Compensation payments (for example, unemployment insurance and trade adjustment assistance benefits) had covered, on average, about 30 percent of the displaced workers' income loss since they had been laid off. The proportion of lost income offset by such benefits was lower the longer the layoff period, dropping from about 55 percent for workers laid off less than 1 year to about 13 percent for those laid off more than 2 years.

"Workers with more than 10 years' seniority at their old jobs had received benefits that replaced larger proportions of their lost wages . However, these workers also reported relatively lower earnings when they were reemployed"


Other Sites Discussing Worker Transitions: 2017 support for addressing climate change "while investing in our communities... secure and maintain employment, pensions and health care for workers affected by changes in the energy market... ensuring high labor standards, the creation of union jobs..." 2020 Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, The Hill. Work Redefined The New Workforce 9/23/2020 at 1:40:12 "Are we going to build a future that has high road high wage jobs? Or are we going to actually leave more and more communities behind? The communities that need the assistance are the ones in areas like coal country in West Virginia, where people had good paying jobs and now are seeing their way of life deteriorate and a life of poverty in front of them. That is not America. And in the richest country in the world we believe we can make the investments to provide a just transition for the people who powered this country for generations and also make sure we have a clean energy jobs economy that is high road high wage with a highly skilled highly trained workforce. 2016 documentary Blood on the Mountain at 1:13:00. Interviewer: "If the government and the administration would come up with a way to protect pensions, to protect the health care of the retirees, to protect current benefits for your members, to provide meaningful job training that would provide unionized jobs in the appropriate areas at the appropriate pay rate, if that can be made to happen?"

       Cecil Roberts United Mine Workers President: "Ever since we've been having this debate the AFL-CIO and others have been on record that there has to be a just transition here. There is no transition pending here right now, other than the unemployment line, lack of a pension, lack of health care. The administration has not offered up anything at this point in time. Now to answer your question, sure we'd certainly look at that. The problem we have is that I don't see that. Just don't see that." and 2009 "Making the Transition: Helping Workers and Communities Retool for the Clean Energy Economy" by Cornell Global Labor Institute and Apollo Alliance with participation by:


o   Labor Network for Sustainability

o   United Mine Workers of America

o   United Steel Workers

o   Utility Workers Union of America

and environmental groups. They recommended (p.15):

       up to 3 years of 100% wage replacement, health benefits retirement contributions,

       above help extended into retirement for workers over 50,

       up to 4 years of full-time training and living stipends,

       help with job search and relocation

economic development help to communities

Labor Network for Sustainability lists issues for transition, cited by Climate Center California

       Initial social safety net

       Workplace transition plan

       Wage guarantee/insurance

       Education and job training

       Priority job placement

       Pension and benefit support

       Health care

       Community investment 2017-2018 reports analyze coal transition in US, China, India, Australia, Netherlands and other countries. Netherlands closed coal mines in 1965-1974, with agreement from unions to close while the mining company still had money, not to wait for bankruptcies. Government also provided subsidies of about $500,000 per lost job. 2018 World Bank paper has brief information on several countries' experience closing coal mines. It analyzes help for miners and communities, including women as workers and spouses, help before and after layoffs, pros and cons of lump sum termination payments or periodic payments, early retirement, other jobs, relocation, small business formation, and specialized mine closure companies. 2017-2019 reports on many grant projects proposed (some were funded) to reclaim land over closed coal mines (abandoned mine lands-AML) in Appalachia. 2017 report by Cornell's Worker Institute recommends 70% wage replacement and 80% health benefit replacement for up to 3 years, a bridge to retirement and training (pp.5-6). They also propose many jobs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, though without cost estimates. ILO 2016 guidelines call for investment, incentives, job creation, job upgrading, poverty eradication, safety nets, training, collaboration, energy efficiency and resource efficiency to support more jobs; greener products and services in agriculture, construction, recycling and tourism; help people with price rises; stable government policy to allow adjustment 2012 report supports training, finding and creating jobs, including restoring and reusing site, community development and signed agreements. Wyoming 2018 laws proposed to support: commercial air service, job training, school computer courses, high-speed internet, business incubators and support, especially block chain, and marketing Wyoming products abroad, especially farm products. April 2016 webinar resulted in a brief report which voices support for"

        locally-owned, renewable energy projects 

        Community loan funds lending to small businesses and nonprofits for renewable and energy efficiency projects,

        Giles County, Virginia, working with the Federal Aviation Administration on the emerging drone industry, and attracting high-tech manufacturing to the area

        re-developing hiking trails and other tourist attractions.

        technical assistance, 

        loan capital 

        training for new industries and technologies

        addressing energy-inefficient housing stock burdened with high electricity costs and uncomfortable housing, making any increase in energy costs a real burden.

        POWER Plan, $66.8 million available for economic diversification, workforce development, and job creation in coal-impacted communities 2020 coalition proposal has two interim, concrete actions:

A.    Create a National Community Transition Action Plan, created within a one-year period, that would identify priorities and needs across affected communities.

B.    Create a new federal Office of Economic Transition to coordinate and oversee the new national community transition program.


#1 LOCAL LEADERSHIP Invest in local, community-based leaders to help communities plan and respond.

#2 RESTORATIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Invest in entrepreneurs and locally owned small businesses to grow diverse economic sectors that contribute to stronger, more resilient communities, improved public health, restored ecosystems and equitable opportunities for all people.

#3 WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT & WORKER HEALTH Provide a broad system of support for workers and viable pathways to quality, family-sustaining jobs.

#4 RECLAMATION Reclaim, remediate, and reuse coal sites to create jobs while restoring land and clean water.

#5 Infrastructure Invest in physical and social infrastructure to stimulate economic development and build a foundation for change.

#6 Bankruptcy Protect workers, taxpayers, communities, and the environment during bankruptcies.

#7 Coordination And Access Empower local communities by providing direct access to federal resources. Collects research on transition of coal industry, emissions and workers Appalachian Regional Commission supports business development, education and infrastructure Focuses on contaminated sites, clean production and sustainable economies. Stories and ideas to promote just transition. No specific proposals. Detailed history from 1970s to early 2016. Makes grants to local groups to foster training, new businesses and markets

Local Groups: in eastern Kentucky: Loans and training for small businesses, energy efficiency, renewable energy, economic development (e.g. AirBnB training to encourage tourism) primarily in southwest VA, and also KY, NC, TN, VA, WV, works on environmental protection and job diversification on borders of KY, OH, TN, VA, WV, supports agriculture in WV offers training and business development in OH, environmental protection and regional jobs in eastern KY, law and policy work in WV, law and policy work


Principles Proposed by Three Groups