Durbin, Obama and Arkansas Senators Ask Department of Labor to Help Displaced Maytag Workers

By:  Barack Obama II
Date: May 17, 2006
Location: Washington, DC

Durbin, Obama and Arkansas Senators Ask Department of Labor to Help Displaced Maytag Workers

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Barack Obama (D-IL), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) today sent a letter to United States Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Elaine L. Chao requesting that DOL be prepared to immediately assist displaced workers if Maytag washer plants in Illinois, Arkansas and Iowa are closed.

On May 10, Whirpool, Inc. announced that it would be closing laundry appliance plants in Illinois, Arkansas and Iowa. The Illinois facility located in Herrin employs 1,000 people and is the backbone of the local economy.

Senators Obama and Durbin said that they are extremely concerned about the potential impact on Downstate Illinois communities if the plants are closed and asked Secretary Chao to immediately prepare to assist displaced workers if closings occur.

"Whirlpool's decision to close the Herrin, Illinois plant is a painful loss for Southern Illinois," said Durbin. "We must do everything possible so that these 1,000 employees have the help they need to find new jobs."

"We've seen how recent plant closings in Galesburg have devastated local economies and communities in Illinois," Obama said. "The Department of Labor must be prepared to immediately help Maytag workers get back on their feet if the Herrin closing goes forward."

Below, please find the full text of the letter:

May 17, 2006

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao
United States Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210

Dear Secretary Chao:

We are writing regarding the decision of Whirlpool, Inc. to close Maytag washer and dryer plants in Illinois and Arkansas. These plant closings will have a significant impact on thousands of our constituents, and we request the immediate assistance of the Department of Labor (DOL) in helping displaced Maytag workers get back on their feet.

As you know, Whirlpool announced on May 10 that it would be closing laundry appliance plants in Illinois, Arkansas, and Iowa. The Illinois facility is located in Herrin and employs 1,000 people; the Arkansas facility is located in Searcy and employs 700 people. These plants form the backbone of their respective communities, and the loss of these 1,700 jobs will be felt deeply by families across each of our states.

We understand that state officials and community leaders are attempting to stop or mitigate these plant closings. However, we want to make sure that if the closings go forward, the 1,700 individuals in Illinois and Arkansas who will lose their jobs will have immediate access to the full range of DOL programs and services.

Specifically, we request that the Department immediately mobilize resources through the DOL Rapid Response program to begin working with state and local workforce development agencies and local One-Stop Career Centers to help Maytag employees transition into new jobs. These workers will require: career counseling and job search assistance; information about unemployment insurance; opportunities for education and training; and information about their health benefits and pensions options. We understand that Rapid Response specialists have a unique ability to provide this training, and we request that these specialists be mobilized immediately to help displaced Maytag workers.

Further, we understand that Illinois and Arkansas may apply for Department of Labor National Emergency Grants to expand their capacity to respond to this crisis. We fully support and urge the Department's approval of any such application, as these layoffs significantly exceed the minimum criteria for National Emergency Grant assistance.

Finally, we expect that many of our dislocated constituents will apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance. Competition from foreign imports may have played a central role in the loss of these 1,700 jobs. We hope the Department will consider certifying these displaced workers as eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance, which will help them return to suitable employment as quickly as possible.

We appreciate your timely consideration of these requests. These plant closings will devastate our constituents in Herrin and Searcy, and 1,700 families are in urgent need of our government's assistance. We look forward to working with you to provide them with the help they require.


Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR)


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