Chrysler and General Motors talk big about retraining their laid off factory workers to do something else with their lives in a changing economy, and we believe them.
Turns out, it may be a big little white lie.
A story in my local paper today reports on how funds promised by Chrysler for the retraining of thousands of displaced workers are no where to be found.
I live in Delaware, and this state has been hit hard by the auto mess. Both Chrysler and General Motors are closing long-time factories here.
Workers at the Newark, DE, plant were promised $10,000 in retraining funds by Chrysler but it was more of a bait and switch.
From the article in the News Journal:
The company told workers after the plant closed in December that the money would be administered by the state, but Delaware officials say that promise was made without their consent and would have required the state to make the payments up front with the promise of reimbursement from a company nearing bankruptcy.
Because the state wasn’t willing to front the money and Chrysler didn’t sign on to another arrangement, any hope of those job-training funds disappeared when the company entered bankruptcy.
Retraining funds were promised to lots of Chrysler workers, and many GM workers as well. I’m digging right now to see how much of those promised monies do actually materialize in the shape of retraining for employees.
But this story clearly shows that it has been the workers that have been hit hardest by the auto industries implosion, and the automakers and the government seem to be doing little to help this huge workforce begin to move on in their careers.
The U.S. Department of Labor and the state labor departments need to get off their butts in these situations and not just pass the buck either.
The article goes on to quote a Delaware labor department official:
“No one got the money, not one state, not one person, not one dislocated Chrysler worker ever received that $10,000,” said Delaware Department of Labor representative Bob Strong.
Strong said Chrysler wanted the state to pay for worker training and the company would then reimburse Delaware, an arrangement that concerned state officials because of the automaker’s precarious financial condition.
The state didn’t even know Chrysler had told its former employees the funds would be made available through the state until people began calling the Department of Labor to ask how to get the money, Strong said.
This is the kind of pathetic response from government that has squeezed our nation’s workers for too long. The department of labor in every state is supposed to be on top of mass layoffs at local, major industries.
Why didn’t Strong know what provisions were put in place for these workers? Someone clearly fell down on the job.
Maybe he should do some research and find out what the federal government is doing to help displaced workers.
Obama’s socalled auto czar Ed Montgomery said last week that $50 million would be available for displaced auto workers who want to retrain for green jobs.
Delaware and other states should also strong-arm these automakers and Mr. Czar to get workers the retraining they were promised and need.
Or does everyone just want these workers, the heart of our nation’s middle class, to go away quietly?