The WARN Act hypocrisy

Marc Nozell

Senator Barack Obama campaigning in New Hampshire

Article Highlights

  • This conveniently-timed guidance by Labor issued just before OMB officials testify before Congress on Wednesday is just that: election year politicking.

    Tweet This

  • The WARN Act and Budget Control Act are the laws of the land that legally cannot be ignored simply because it might hurt a pol’s reelection chances.

    Tweet This

  • Now, apparently, the president not only opposes the principles underlying legislation he himself supported, he opposes WARN entirely.

    Tweet This

All of a sudden, the WARN Act is proving to be a political hot potato for politicians who approved the automatic budget cuts (known as sequestration) that are set to take effect on January 2nd. President Obama’s Labor Department issued guidance this week stating that companies, including defense contractors, anticipating sequestration are not compelled to issue advanced notice of layoffs stipulated under the WARN Act. Those pink slips would be issued just days before November’s presidential elections in most states.

This conveniently-timed guidance by Labor issued just before OMB officials testify before Congress on Wednesday is just that: election year politicking.

The WARN Act and Budget Control Act are the laws of the land that legally cannot be ignored simply because it might hurt a pol’s reelection chances. The law states that sequestration will take effect in January. Only another law will change that.

Defense contractors cannot avoid their legal obligations on the theory that a law triggering layoffs might be changed before the layoffs become necessary… any more than my employer can stop withholding my income taxes because Congress is considering reforming the tax code.

The WARN Act provides employees a right that is enforced by federal courts, not the Labor Department. Even the Labor Department admits in a WARN Act fact sheet that “it has no administrative or enforcement responsibility under WARN” and therefore “cannot provide specific advice or guidance with respect to individual situations.”

Until this week, anyway.

What’s ironic about the politics of sequestration is how the WARN Act came into law. In 1988, a Democratically-controlled Congress passed the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act with veto-proof majorities. It was heralded as a major victory for labor and workers who would now have advanced notice of mass layoffs. The idea was to provide a window for workers and their families to look for new opportunities while taking advantage of state programs while they were still on payroll. By law, firms with at least 100 full-time employees anticipating mass layoffs must provide 60 days’ notice to affected employees (some states require 90 days like California and New York).

In 2007, Democrats led by Sherrod Brown, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton proposed the Forewarn Act, which would have strengthened the WARN Act by expanding the number of companies under the law’s jurisdiction and requiring 90 days’ notice. The bill didn’t go anywhere. Now, apparently, the president not only opposes the principles underlying legislation he himself supported, he opposes WARN entirely.

Mackenzie Eaglen is a resident fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies.

 

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Mackenzie
Eaglen
  • Mackenzie Eaglen has worked on defense issues in the U.S. Congress, both House and Senate, and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff. She specializes in defense strategy, budget, military readiness and the defense industrial base. In 2010, Ms. Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess the Pentagon's major defense strategy. A prolific writer on defense related issues, she has also testified before Congress.


     


    Follow Mackenzie Eaglen on Twitter.

  • Phone: (202) 862-7183
    Email: mackenzie.eaglen@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Charles Morrison
    Phone: (202) 862-5945
    Email: charles.morrison@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image Recovering from tax time blues
image 10 welfare reform lessons
image Let HHS nominee Sylvia Burwell explain Obamacare lie
image Why bold ideas backfire in politics
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 14
    MON
  • 15
    TUE
  • 16
    WED
  • 17
    THU
  • 18
    FRI
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Calling treason by its name: A conversation with Liam Fox

Join us at AEI as the Right Honorable Liam Fox sits down with Marc Thiessen to discuss and debate whether America’s intelligence agencies have infringed on the personal privacy of US citizens.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, April 17, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The curmudgeon's guide to getting ahead

How can young people succeed in workplaces dominated by curmudgeons who are judging their every move? At this AEI book event, bestselling author and social scientist Charles Murray will offer indispensable advice for navigating the workplace, getting ahead, and living a fulfilling life.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.