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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Trade Act aid OK'd
For workers losing jobs at American

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

About 400 full-time employees whose jobs at American of Martinsville are set to be eliminated late this summer will be eligible to apply for help through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, according to Sen. Jim Webb.

The Trade Act provides assistance with career counseling, up to two years of training, income support during training, help with job search, and relocation allowances to qualifying workers who become unemployed for trade-related reasons.

"This is good news for us," Bobby Mims, vice president of human resources at American, said Monday. The company announced last month that it will cut about 400 jobs at its Redd Level plant by the end of the summer.

American essentially will eliminate its wood furniture production in Martinsville and instead will rely on production in China and other Asian countries, officials have said. Production of upholstered furniture will continue in Martinsville.

The U.S. Department of Labor certified, or approved, the company's petition for assistance Friday after concluding "there was a shift in production from a firm or subdivision to China," according to information provided by Webb's office.

Mims said U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Rocky Mount, and Webb "both were very instrumental in getting this approved."

Employees older than 50 also are eligible to apply for help through the Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance (ATAA) program for older workers, according to information from Webb's office.

Both programs provide similar assistance to qualifying workers who become unemployed for trade-related reasons.

Workers engaged in employment related to the production of case-goods furniture who became totally or partially separated from employment on or after July 9, 2007, through two years from the date the petition was certified are eligible to apply for assistance, according to the news release from Webb's office.

American of Martinsville employees working through temporary staffing agencies also are eligible to apply.

Webb, a Democrat, supported the petition "due to the effects of foreign imports on furniture production in Virginia," the release said.

In a letter to Elaine L. Chao, U.S. secretary of labor, Webb wrote that "providing Trade Adjustment Assistance will help these workers make the difficult transition to new jobs at a time when Virginia's manufacturing industry faces hard times. In addition to providing support for laid off workers, we must address the larger issue of U.S. trade policies that are unfair and disproportionally affect American workers."�


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