President Obama’s Labor Department is doing its best to circumvent a law that Obama himself supported in order to avoid bad economic headlines before election day.
As I documented here at Breitbart News on Tuesday, DOL is trying to pressure defense contractors to hold off on announcing layoffs made necessary by impending Defense sequestration cuts, despite a law that requires them to give their employees 60 days notice before those layoffs take place.
Paul Conway, a former top DOL official, told me that the move reeks of politicization. The move “comes across as very crass,” Conway said, adding that the administration doesn’t want to “further a bad news story less than 100 days from an election.”
The law in question, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, is quite clear on contractors’ responsibilities to their employees, but DOL is trying to use “the weight of the cabinet officer [Labor Secretary Hilda Solis] and the weight of the department,” in Conway’s words, to bully contractors into silence.
Not only is the law clear, it’s one that Obama himself supported during his time in the Senate. “For too long,” he stated in a 2007 press release, “employers have failed to notify workers that they’re about to lose their jobs due to mass layoffs or plant closings even though notice is required by the WARN Act.”
“The least employers can do when they’re anticipating layoffs,” Obama added, “is to let workers know they’re going to be out of a job and a pay check with enough time to plan for their future.”
That is exactly what contractors planned to do before Obama’s DOL deemed it “inappropriate.” Their rationale is that Congress may act before January 2, when sequestration cuts go into effect, to avert those cuts. But of course, private companies must make decisions based on current law, not on the hopes that a whimsical and divided Congress will take much-needed preventative measures.
In fact, if contractors do not comply with the WARN Act, they could face sanctions that Obama himself supported.”We must act at the federal level to close the loophole that allows employers to disregard the WARN Act without penalty,” he wrote in a Toledo Blade column in 2007.
Now it’s Obama – or at least his administration – that’s hoping those companies will disregard that law. What’s changed since then? Certainly the president’s political interests in enforcing that law.