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Wavro: Arlington Board Should Stand Up for WARN Act Protection

Federal law requires employers to notify employees, local governments before mass layoffs.

Republican Matt Wavro has called on the Arlington County Board to "stand up" for residents here who could be affected by federal sequestration.

The looming $1.2 trillion in cuts to defense and other parts of the federal government was meant to force a compromise between partisan politicians but now could actually be realized.

Under the federal WARN Act — that's the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act — most employers are required to give workers a 60-day notice in advance of plant closings or mass layoffs. But some Northern Virginia defense contractors are holding off on those notices — some haven't decided — following a White House memo that says the federal government will cover any liability for doing so.

Republicans have criticized the measure as simply wanting to prevent pink slips from arriving days before the presidential election and for potentially burdening taxpayers with untold amounts of litigation costs.

Wavro, who is running for Arlington County Board against incumbent Democrat Libby Garvey and Green Party challenger Audrey Clement, in September called on local elected officials to demand local employers adhere to the WARN Act.

In addition to notifying workers, the law requires employers to notify the state and local governments in their operational jurisdiction in order to assist displaced workers.

Wavro reiterated his point this month at a Patch-Arlington Independent Media candidate's forum, saying the county "has declined to stand up for local residents, to make sure they have the opportunity to retrain and plan for any future negative impacts their employment."

"What I wanted to do," Wavro said Friday in a phone interview, "is make sure Arlington County says they expect employers to follow the law, and they expect local employers to provide the appropriate notices to the local government and local workers if the financial reality of the sequester affects them in a negative way."

"That's a very good notice to have," he said. "We're a knowledge-based economy. And those type of knowledge workers, the more that they have an opportunity to adjust to any negative consequences to their employment, the better it is for them, for their families and for Arlington."

Wavro, a human resources consultant, said he was laid off last year due to a 30-percent across-the-board reduction in force — so he knows first-hand the importance of receiving such a notice.

"We wouldn't want to see any of our neighbors have to move out of Arlington because they didn't get a 60-day notice before any massive cuts in the federal budget led to their job no longer being available," he said.

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