Ex-Hostess/Interstate Workers Win Extra Benefits Under Trade Adjustment Assistance

When Hostess filed for bankruptcy for the second time in a few years, workers knew that the company’s problems were not their fault but the product of years of mismanagement. Last week, an investigation by the Department of Labor concluded that the Hostess/Interstate bankruptcy was indeed the result of declining market share in the face of increasing competition from foreign bakeries. The DOL’s press release for the decision for Petition T-A-W-82,165, can be read here  (and for the ambitious, the whole decision is here.).

As a result of this determination, many former Hostess workers now qualify for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a richer and longer-lasting level of Federal retraining money, income replacement and health care (COBRA) subsidies designed to help workers whose work has moved offshore and who therefore may need extra help transitioning to a new job or career.  While this news won’t remove the bitter taste of Hostess’ betrayal of its workers and brands, it does mean that the workers who spent their lives there, the vast majority of whom had been there for 20+ years, will have extra help getting back on their feet and back into the workforce. 

Workers at all Interstate Brands/Hostess locations in California are eligible for TAA. Anyone laid off between November 19, 2011 and February 19, 2015 is covered, including workers still employed during liquidation. This also includes people who were laid off for up to two years before the bankruptcy.  Why? Because the DOL has determined that the company was suffering from a decline in business, so workers laid off up to two years before the closure are also considered casualties of foreign competition.

Based on individual eligibility, Hostess workers under TAA may receive

  • A tax credit covering up to 72.5% of an eligible participant’s monthly qualifying health insurance premium (under COBRA)
  • Up to 104 weeks of approved training, including, classroom and on-the-job training
  • Reemployment services, including skills assessment and retraining, help with resumes, interviews, job leads & referrals, and help with expenses while looking for work
  • Job search and relocation allowances, plus transportation & subsistence allowances to attend trainings outside the local area.
  • Up to 104 weeks of cash payments (similar to unemployment payments) for eligible workers enrolled in full-time training.

Workers over age 50 can choose an alternate program called RTAA, which includes a wage subsidy for up to 2 years available to workers age 50 or over who are reemployed at annual wages of $50,000 or less. (Find more TAA details here in English or Spanish).

The California Labor Federation has been working closely with the affected unions to get their laid-off members signed up for regular benefits, and we will continue to help these deserving workers in getting all the benefits possible to help them through this difficult time. Affected workers can apply online here, or pick up an application at your local One-Stop Career Center.

For more information, please contact Martha Bader, mbader@calaborfed.org or 510-663-4082.