By: Virginia Navigator Trade Team

This is the fourth blog in our Summer Session on Petition Filing.

The Trade petition process can often be a challenging fact finding mission which involves interviewing the employer and affected workers.  Today we will consider some tips for interviewing the employer.

What kind of NUT is the employer?  I do not mean, are they crazy or eccentric?  But are they like a pistachio nut which is easy to open: they provide requested information willingly and even offer helpful documentation?  OR are they like a walnut that is hard to crack and requires special tools? We all have had these employers before: difficult to pry any information out of, clam up and deny everything or claim they know nothing.

Your approach to interviewing the employer will greatly assist in obtaining the necessary information you will need to determine if there is sufficient basis for Trade impact.

Do your homeworkResearchthe company and product or service before contacting the employer. Talk to workers first regarding their workplace observations and interactions.  Know what products or services the firm provides. Who are their competitors? Does their company have global locations? Is their product imported at an increasing amount? Once you know this information you can then have an informed conversation with the employer regarding imports of a like or similar nature, shifts in production or services to another country or contracts or bids recently lost.

WHO to ask is equally important as WHAT to ask. Often HR professionals are unable to answer these questions but will be able to assist you with other contacts within the company.This will provide you with two contacts should you file a petition. The company contacts listed on the petition will need to furnish not only employment data but also sales and production data when sent the DOL Business Data Request to complete. The Plant Manager, Chief Financial Officer, President, even the corporate Attorney if the company is in bankruptcy, may be better company officials to contact for information about possible Trade impact.

General, recommended interview techniques will apply when interviewing the employer:

  • ­Don’t be accusatory. Instead show empathy and sympathy.Often times, the company contact may be also a Trade impacted worker. Have a conversation with information in it!
  • ­Ask open ended questions: avoid simple Yes or No questions which result in incomplete information.Try to think of questions that require long answers
  • ­Promise confidentiality: while the petition, status and results are published on the Dept. of Labor website, DOL treats all information obtained from firms and other suppliers as confidential information.
  • ­Explain the incentives: emphasize that the Trade program assists workers who will lose their jobs with reemployment services and other benefits.By willingly participating in the Trade petition process, the employer is demonstrating their concern and interest for the welfare of their workers.Some employers may feel that a filed Trade petition will produce a negative opinion about the firm.Stress that Trade certification shows that the company, along with its affected workers, has been victim to global, Trade impact: a circumstance over which they often have no control.
  • ­Use the power of silence:people feel a need to fill the holes in the conversation and often they will then bring out the critical bit of information you seek.
  • ­Be courteous: show appreciation for the employer’s time and information.After the interview, send a thank you email summarizing the conversation with the DOL website link for information about the Trade program.Also send the Business Data Request for Article or Service which can facilitate the DOL investigation process if a petition is filed.

The employer can be an adversary or friend in the process of filing a Trade petition: a walnut or a pistachio.  Your technique and approach can often determine whether or not your employer will be a hard nut to crack!