Nov. 21, 2011 | Roughly 1,000 out-of-work former Solyndra employees in Fremont are now eligible for additional health care and unemployment benefits awarded Monday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis approved triggering the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Solyndra employees after the solar tech firm went belly up Aug. 31. The bankruptcy of the high-profile local company has been the target of considerable criticism by Republicans who say the government's $535 million loan guarantee was flawed from the outset and pursued by the Obama administration to burnish a sterling green tech image while assisting some large-scale campaign donors.
Aid from TAA is usually given to support workers in trades where jobs are lost due to foreign trade. Democrats maintain the failure of Solyndra was hastened by similar lower costs solar tubes made in China.
Days after the surprise layoff of 1,000 highly-skilled workers in Rep. Pete Stark's Fremont district, the long-time congressman in a letter to Solyndra's president, warned the company it was violating federal law by abruptly cutting off workers from health insurance benefits and wages without notice.
In addition, a New York Times article last week detailed a memo trumpeted by Republicans, which instructed Solyndra to hold off announcing layoffs until after the November mid-term elections last year. The grim announcement came nearly nine months later.
"The people who lost their paychecks and their health insurance in Solyndra's poorly managed plant closure deserve some assurance that all is not lost," said Stark. "TAA benefits will help more than 1,000 workers in my district who were blindsided by the Solyndra closure to get back on their feet and lessen the blow to the community."
According to a press release from Stark's office, the TAA benefits afforded to former Solyndra employees would temporarily reinstate a majority of their previous benefits, including nearly three-fourths of health care premiums, cash allowances for relocation if employment cannot be found in the area and up to 130 weeks of unemployment.