By: Virginia Navigator Trade Team

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

So in our last session we discussed how to talk to employers - “the boss.”  These are generally folks like us but with the task of being loyal to their company as well as taking care of their employees.  Now we want to engage in a conversation on how to talk to the worker who has lost their job or is about to and is likely thinking solely about; “What’s next?”


One of the most important things we can do is to know what we’re talking about and understanding what we hear.  Know the company and the goods or services provided. Know your audience – how do they do what they do?  Be prepared to talk to workers about the Trade Act and what the benefits are to impacted workers.  Share with the worker that their information is important and confidential.  Listen for key items in your conversation that may trigger more questions.


Employees can be a wealth of information and can give us direction so we know where to dig for more.  It may go something like this, “I don’t understand why I got laid off.  I trained some workers that came in from Canada because the company was going to ramp up our business there.  I thought that meant we were getting lots of new business but I got laid off the week after they left our office.”  Or it could come from the rumors passed in the break room like; “I heard the plant manager got a contract to go to our plant in Mexico for 3 years to manage a new project there.” Getting any triggers? These are pretty obvious but we all will have times with workers where we get that “Ah, hah!” moment. Then what do we do? The best bet is to talk to more employees.  This doesn’t mean that you have to identify and speak to every dislocated worker.  What you want to do is get a sense of whether only one group of workers with the company (like IT or Customer Service) is affected, or whether you’re getting indicators the company may soon be closing.


Some questions to ask:


  • How were you told that you were being laid off?Were you provided a reason for the lay off?
  • Have you or any other workers been laid off or had your hours reduced in the last year?
  • Were you given a projected return to work date?
  • Have you noticed any changes like visiting workers from out of the country, has the company recently been sold or merged with another company or have you had a change in the materials you use coming in to your facility?
  • Have the needs for your goods or services diminished and do you know who your largest competitor is for the goods or services you provide?
  • Have any of the management staff with your company traveled out of the country in the last year for company business?


Be mindful of your general audience.  The average Trade Affected Worker is customarily over 40 and has  invested a number of their years working in this industry if not exclusively for this particular company.  They have time invested in observing and analyzing what is going on around them and often are willing to share that knowledge. Let them talk.  Many of these workers need to talk and rationalize about what is happening. 


How do you wind up your interview?  Explain the petition filing process, what they can expect and where they can find information about the Trade Act.  Make sure that you make the worker aware of your contact information, how you can be reached, and confirm for them that you will keep their information confidential unless they specify otherwise.


Now that you’re thinking about what you can say to get information from your possible Trade impacted worker, tune in next week when we talk about “How to Obtain Referrals from Your Partners.”  (Where are those workers?)