Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL) today praised Galesburg resident Dave Bevard's testimony before the House Committee on Education and Labor during a hearing about the effectiveness of existing programs to help workers impacted by international trade.
Bevard and his wife were both employees at Maytag in Galesburg before NAFTA shipped theirs and nearly 1,600 other jobs to Sonora, Mexico. "Until you have experienced it, you cannot truly appreciate the emotional devastation of knowing that the world as you know it is gone," Bevard said.
"People like Dave and towns like Galesburg are the reasons I fought so hard to get a seat on the Education and Labor Committee," Hare said. "The middle class families who built this country are being left behind by these one-sided, unfair trade agreements."
Bevard was invited to testify by Hare and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) to discuss the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program (TAA), which is offered to Americans whose jobs were exported as the result of unfair trade agreements. Bevard criticized the often bewildering process workers undertake when trying to obtain the assistance available to them. "Maneuvering through the TAA and other programs can be like entering a bureaucratic minefield," he said. "One wrong step and you may lose out on your eligibility for benefits."
Hare said TAA must be revamped to eliminate funding gaps, strengthen worker re-training programs, and offer affordable health care. "It has been nearly 5 years since Maytag announced they were closing and Dave is still looking for a job," Hare said. "TAA was designed so workers with his experience, skills, and character could quickly rejoin the workforce."
Bevard said he was grateful for the services provided through TAA, including job counseling and education benefits, but stressed that government assistance is no substitute for a high paying job. "The plain truth is that none of these programs make up for failed trade policies or adequately compensate us for our job loss and the disruption of our lives," he said. "We must have fair trade agreements and ways to create and keep good jobs here so that our middle class is strong."
Hare said that Bevard's story is one that should be heard by all Members of Congress before considering any new trade agreements. "Mere job loss numbers do not adequately depict the severity of this crisis," Hare said. "Our current trade policies are harming families, and I am extremely grateful to Dave for putting a human face on this growing problem."
Tonight, Hare will join Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME) and other members of the Congressional Working Group on Trade on the House floor to discuss Bevard's story and the impact of trade on the American middle class. Hare recently met with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) to urge him to adopt a new model for future trade agreements that protects workers' and environmental rights.