Statement on the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act

 

August 2, 1988

 

One of my guiding principles has been to reduce the intrusion of the Federal government into the lives of all Americans. I believe that principle has served this country well. During the current economic expansion we have created over 17 million new jobs -- mostly high-quality and full-time -- the unemployment rate is the lowest in 14 years, and more people are now at work in America than ever before. Our economic policies have produced plant openings and job opportunities. But the Congress has taken a step in the wrong direction by passing the plant closing legislation.

 

If we are to be competitive, America must be able to adapt to changing conditions here and abroad. We cannot stand still. We must be flexible enough to meet the challenges of the future.

 

While this legislation was pending, I heard from workers whose jobs would have been lost and businesses whose doors would have closed if the law were in effect. In the words of one businessman, ``if plant closing legislation had been in force during our time of restructuring . . . we would be history, and no one would be employed here, and no products would be coming off the line . . . we would not be an American manufacturer/employer today!''

 

Workers should be given as much notice as possible when a business is forced to resort to layoffs, or to close altogether. Compassion demands no less. But the Federal government's mandating that businesses under virtually all conditions must give 60-days' notice -- even if doing so eliminates any chance to save the company -- is not a proper course. We should not go down the road of European labor policy -- a policy that has resulted in no net job growth in the last decade. The European experience has proven that notification mandated by law does not create or save one job. Nor does it assist those who find themselves without work -- it does just the opposite. Plant closing restrictions have resulted in fewer plant openings.

 

Federal law, unlike negotiations between labor and management, cannot anticipate the variety of individual circumstances faced by workers and firms. Federal laws like this one are counterproductive. Unfortunately, some in the Congress have been more interested in scoring political points with organized labor than in saving workers' jobs. To make matters worse, the Senate leadership refuses to even consider important trade legislation until final action is taken on the plant closing bill.

 

I salute those in the Congress who supported me on this issue. They saw beyond the parochial interest and voted for the national interest. They were right. But the national interest now dictates that the majority in the Congress must be forced to stop playing politics. Therefore, in order to end these political shenanigans and to get on with the business of the Nation -- especially enacting responsible trade legislation -- I have decided to allow the plant closing bill to become law but without my signature.

 

Ronald Reagan

 

The White House,

 

August 2, 1988.

 

Note: S. 2527 became law on August 4 and was assigned Public Law No. 100 - 379.