News Releases

Remarks by Senator Patty Murray Urging Benefits for Displaced Workers

Oct 10 2001

Murray speaks on the Senate floor in favor of Carnahan Amendment to help laid-off workers

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke on the Senate Floor in favor of an amendment offered by Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-MO) to provide benefits for workers facing layoffs in the wake of the September 11th, attacks. Senator Murray's remarks follow:

Mr. President, I've come to the floor today to speak on behalf of more than one-hundred thousand American workers who are now facing layoffs. For weeks, these workers have been waiting for this Senate to pass a worker's assistance package. Today, we have finally have an amendment on the floor to help them, and I've come to the floor to call for its immediate passage.

For many of our workers, the clock is ticking. If fact, this Friday about 10,000 Boeing employees will receive notice that they may lose their jobs. They are very concerned about how they're going to feed their families, get health care, and pay their mortgage. They need the Senate to take action. Just look at the layoffs that have been announced so far. On September 15th, United Airlines announced it was laying-off 20,000 workers. The same day Continental announced it was laying-off 12,000 workers. On September 17th, U.S. Airways announced it was laying-off 11,000 workers. On September 18th, the Boeing Company announced up to 30,000 layoffs. On September 19th, American Airlines announced 20,000 layoffs, and on September 26th, Delta announced 13,000 layoffs. Mr. President, the aren't just layoffs. These are people with families, people who are in our communities. These are workers are losing their jobs every day, and they need help.

In my home state of Washington, we are really feeling the impact because of layoffs in the aviation and aerospace industry. The Boeing Company plans to lay-off up to 30,000 employees. That is 30 percent of its workforce. By this Christmas holiday season, 10,000 Boeing employees could be out of work. And it's not just Boeing, there are hundreds of suppliers who are also being impacted. The clock is ticking, and this Congress still has not passed a workers assistance package. I urge my colleagues to support the Carnahan amendment so we can help those workers.

Congress has already taken care of the airlines by passing $15 billion in assistance. I supported that package because it was the right thing to do. Getting the airlines back up and running quickly helped us avoid further layoffs. But we're always recognized that we've got a responsibility to help the many workers who are losing their jobs through no fault of their own.

So far this Congress has not provided any help for the 110,000 airline workers who will be laid off, or the 30,000 Boeing workers who will be laid off. These workers have to put food on the table, make their car payments, and pay the mortgage. They're losing their jobs. They need our help, and the Carnahan amendment will help them.

In fact, these efforts are even more important today given the underlying problems with the U.S. economy. Before September 11th, our economy was teetering on the edge of a recession. Unemployment is currently at 4.9%, which is the highest level in over four years. Some economists have predicted that unemployment could reach 6.5% by the middle of next year. Even worse, these economic problems are affecting workers in related industries including travel agents, hotel and restaurant employees, caterers, car rental companies, and many more.

We are now working on a stimulus package that is intended to help our broader economy. The price tag could be as high as $75 billion dollars. I want to make sure we meet the needs of the men and women -- moms and dads -- who are facing layoffs right now. We need to adopt the Carnahan amendment to assist our displaced workers.

This amendment would provide an additional 20 weeks of cash payments to airline and aircraft manufacturing employees who lost their jobs as a direct result of the attacks of Sept. 11

For individuals who were laid off but who do not qualify for state unemployment assistance, our bill would provide unemployment benefits for 26 weeks. This will mean so much to those who are so worried about losing their homes and feeding their families in the coming weeks and months.

The legislation would also provide worker training benefits for laid-off employees and for those "threatened" by lay offs -- so they are better equipped to find a new job as we see our economy developing in the coming years.

Finally, the amendment would provide 12 months of COBRA health insurance payments to affected workers. This is critical for families who need to know their loved ones will not lose their health care along with their jobs. No one in this country should live with that fear now. I urge my colleagues to adopt this much-needed amendment.

The clock is ticking, and these workers facing layoffs cannot wait. We've got to move forward and get these workers the help, the assistance, and the confidence they need now. So Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to vote for this workers assistance package, to move the underlying bill, and to do what we need to do to get our economy back on track so that our country can be confident again.