Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy, along with Congressman Stephen Lynch today sent a letter to the CEO of SWB New England requesting that he provide a written explanation as to why the company failed to notify the workers of its impending closing or why it failed to comply with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.
SWB New England closed its doors and laid off 140 workers earlier this month. The legislators are concerned about reports that say the company did not provide its employees with proper notice under the WARN Act. The WARN Act requires businesses that employ 100 or more workers to provide at least 60 days advance written notice prior to closing a plant or facility.
"This is an issue of fundamental fairness for workers. I want to know why SWB New England failed to give its employees any advance notice before closing the plant. These workers weren't even given any time to start looking for new jobs. They've been left out in the cold," said Senator Kerry. "I'm pushing to find out whether SWB New England violated the WARN Act so that these workers can decide whether to seek compensation. I strongly urge CEO Charles Ward to fully cooperate with federal and local officials so that we can make sure that all of his former employees receive the fair treatment they are entitled to under the law."
Senator Kennedy said, "Finding a good job in this economy can be very difficult. That's why companies need to give the advance notice required under the law. When they don't, workers pay the price. I hope that SWB New England will meet its obligations and do everything it can to help its former employees. I commend the Commonwealth's Rapid Response unit for assisting these hardworking men and women."
Congressman Stephen F. Lynch said, "As someone who worked at the General Motors Plant in Framingham when it closed down and the General Dynamics Shipyard in Quincy when it closed down as well, I know all too well the devastating impact that a closing like this can have on its workers and their families. The WARN Act was put in place to ensure that these families are provided with the tools they need to stay afloat, get back on their feet and rejoin the workforce as soon as possible. We are asking if these workers were denied their basic rights to advance notification and transitional assistance, and we will make certain that the safety is in place for these men and women during this extraordinarily difficult time."
The text of the letter is as follows:
October 29, 2007
Chief Executive Officer
SWB New England
35 Turnpike Street
West Bridgewater, MA 02379
Dear Mr. Ward,
We are writing to inquire about reports we have received from former employees of SWB New England, which abruptly closed its doors and laid off 140 workers on October 10, 2007. We are concerned that SWB New England did not provide these workers with proper notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN).
The WARN Act requires businesses that employ 100 or more workers to provide at least 60 days advance written notice prior to closing a plant or facility. We have learned from state labor officials and former SWB employees that these workers received little advance noticeand no written noticeprior to SWB New England's closure of the West Bridgewater facility.
As you can imagine, SWB New England's employees were stunned by the news that they would lose their jobs. In addition, the lack of advance notice has made it more difficult for workers to find new jobs and for state labor officials to assist the workers.
We ask for your cooperation to ensure that the 140 employees of SWB New England receive all of the benefits to which they are entitled under federal and state law, including compensation under the WARN Act. We request that you provide our offices and these workers with a written explanation addressing why the company failed to notify the workers in writing of the impending closing. In addition, we ask that the company fully cooperate with federal and state labor officials in their efforts to contact the workers and assist them in finding new jobs and filing applications for unemployment benefits.
We owe it to these workers to ensure that they receive all possible assistance during this time of transition. We hope that you will comply with our request and cooperate with all of the federal and state officials involved in this matter to ensure fair treatment for your former employees.
We thank you for your attention to this matter.
Edward M. Kennedy
John. F. Kerry
Stephen F. Lynch