Appeals in cases of In Re: Claim of William Cramer, No. B-204420, and Claim of James E. Rhoades, No. B-204419.
Frank J. Lucchino, Grogan, Graffam, McGinley, Solomon & Lucchino, for petitioners.
Charles G. Hasson, Acting Deputy Chief Counsel, with him, Joel G. Cavicchia, Associate Counsel, for respondent.
Judges MacPhail and Barry, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry.
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These cases involve the effect of amendments to the Trade Act of 1974 (Trade Act), Act of January 3, 1975, Pub. L. No. 93-618, 19 U.S.C. §§ 2101-2487, contained in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, Pub. L. No. 97-35, 95 Stat. 881 (1981). Specifically, we must deal with amendments to that portion of the Trade Act which provides assistance to United States workers whose jobs are affected by the importing of products.
Both William Cramer and James E. Rhoades, token claimants who are representing a number of other similarly situated workers, were employed by Bethlehem Steel Company in Johnstown. Since 1977, they had been laid off from work for intermittent periods during which they collected both regular unemployment compensation benefits and trade readjustment allowance (TRA) benefits which were provided for in the Trade Act. The amendments to the Trade Act became effective before claimants had collected all of the TRA benefits to which they were allegedly entitled
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under the original Trade Act. Because of the 1981 amendments, the Office of Employment Security (OES) denied the claimants' applications for their remaining TRA benefits. A referee, on December 17, 1981, affirmed an OES determination and denied the claimants' requests for TRA benefits. The Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) affirmed the referee and these appeals followed.
In order to fully understand the problem involved in this case, a historical review of the Trade Act, both prior and subsequent to the 1981 amendments is necessary. Section 2 of the Trade Act provides:
The purposes of this Chapter are, through trade agreements affording mutual benefits --
(1) to foster the economic growth of and full employment in the United States and to strengthen economic relations between the United States and foreign countries through open and nondiscriminatory world trade;
(2) to harmonize, reduce, and eliminate barriers of trade on a basis which assures substantially equivalent competitive opportunities for the commerce of the United States;
(3) to establish fairness and equity in international trading relations, including reform of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade;
(4) to provide adequate procedures to safeguard American industry and labor against unfair and injurious import competition, and to assist industries, firms, workers, and communities to adjust to changes in international trade flows;
(5) to open up market opportunities for United States commerce in nonmarket economies; and
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(6) to provide fair and reasonable access to products of less developed countries in the United States market. (Emphasis added.)
The procedures for protecting workers from injuries due to imports begin in Section 221 of the Trade Act, 19 U.S.C. § 2271, which allows workers to petition the Secretary of Labor for TRA benefits. Section 222 of the Trade Act provided:
The Secretary shall certify a group of workers as eligible to apply for adjustment assistance under this chapter if he determines --
(1) that a significant number or proportion of workers in such workers' firm or an appropriate subdivision of the firm have become totally or partially separated,
(2) that sales or production, or both, of such firm or subdivision have decreased absolutely, and
(3) that increases of imports of articles like or directly competitive with articles produced by such workers' firm or appropriate subdivision thereof contributed importantly to [were a substantial cause of] such total or partial separation, or ...