Without WARNing

Lawmakers had mixed reaction to the Labor Department’s July 30 guidance that it’s inappropriate for defense companies and other federal contractors to invoke the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act to issue notices of potential mass layoffs due to the looming budget sequester. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), House Armed Services Committee chairman, called the guidance “politically motivated” in a release. “People will still get laid off because of the President’s irresponsibility, but they won’t have the notice to protect themselves and their families,” asserted McKeon. Conversely, HASC Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said the guidance was “an important and correct interpretation of the law” in his separate release. “There is no reason to needlessly alarm hundreds of thousands of workers when there is no way to know what will happen with sequestration,” stated Smith. Under the WARN Act, companies are required to provide workers 60 days notice of pending plant closings or mass layoffs. Defense executives have said sequestration would cost their companies many thousands of jobs and have called for more details on what to expect when it kicks in come January. (See also McCain-Graham-Ayotte joint statement.) (WARN Act fact sheet)