MCMINNVILLE, Ore. (AP) — More than 200 workers who found themselves without jobs after WestRock closed its Newberg paper mill late last year, and launched a joint venture in Mexico with a Mexican paper company, have qualified for benefits through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program.
The program, administered through the states, provides workers with a variety of services and benefits, including retraining, tax credits and even relocation assistance when employment-related. The program was created in the 1970s to help workers whose jobs were lost as a result of foreign competition.
The petition was filed by the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers. It cited “significant global competition from Canada and China, and other foreign manufacturers,” as contributing to the plant closure.
Qualification is also being sought in McMinnville for 70 workers — represented by United Steelworkers Local 8378 — who were laid off in February by Cascade Steel Rolling Mills. The company cited the flow of cheap steel imports from Third World producers like China and India as the reason.
A petition filed by the United Steelworkers alleges, “China has recently flooded the U.S. West Coast metals market. Oregon has seen an impact in many of our metals industries.”
The union has twice previously filed for relief under the TAA program as well. Applications were approved in 2001 and denied in 2010.
In 2002, Congress decided to limit petitions to situations where jobs were lost to competition from Canada or Mexico. However, when the Obama administration reauthorized the program last year, it expanded the reach to cover competition from other quarters as well, and that has produced an array of new petitions.
Ricque’ Smith of the Oregon Employment Department, who helps oversee the TAA in Oregon, said the ultimate goal is to help displaced workers find new employment as quickly as possible.