Labor secretary might give aid to Northwest employees

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday asked U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao for a $13.9 million national emergency grant to help workers laid off by Northwest Airlines.

The airline expects to lay off 2,000 workers in Minnesota, and the state expects at least 4,000 other jobs to be affected by those layoffs.

"Our research indicates that for every job lost from Minnesota's airline industry (after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks), an additional two from supporting and related industries were lost as well," Pawlenty said.

The $13.9 million would provide services to about 3,600 people -- about 60 percent of the people who might need it, he said. Minnesota applied for $24 million after Sept. 11 but received just $8 million, or about 30 percent of what was needed.


"It is our hope that more assistance can be provided this time," Pawlenty said.

Last Friday, Northwest announced it would dismiss 4,900 workers system-wide and cut flying by 12 percent because it expects thousands of customers a day will choose not to fly while the United States is at war in Iraq.

"Our prayers go out for our brave men and women in uniform," Pawlenty wrote to Chao in his grant request. "They are America's front line in the war on terrorism. As the mass layoffs at Northwest Airlines clearly demonstrate, however, the war will also directly impact airline industry employees."

While visiting Minnesota for a roundtable on health insurance Tuesday, Chao said emergency grants usually can be turned around quickly. And she pledged other support for the workers.

"We are sending teams here on site, on the ground, to help people," Chao said.

She said reaction and rapid-response teams were being deployed to explain what pension, health care, unemployment and other benefits workers are entitled to. There also are 1,800 local offices where laid-off employees can get help, she said.

"Obviously, we're very concerned for the workers," she said.

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