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Asociación de Trabajadores Fronterizos v. Department of Labor

This suit alleged that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) systematically violated The Trade Act of 1974 by failing to ensure that Spanish-speaking workers who lost their jobs in the wake of NAFTA received the vocational training to which they were entitled under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Although the program was intended to provide effective job retraining to workers who lose their jobs because of trade agreements, the DOL sent thousands of Hispanic trade-dislocated workers to remedial English classes that did not help the workers learn new job skills.

The lawsuit was filed by Public Citizen and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid on behalf of Asociación de Trabajadores Fronterizos (the Association of Border Workers, or ATF). The lawsuit was filed in federal court in DC and transferred to the Western District of Texas. The suit alleged that the DOL violated the law by allowing state agencies that implement the program to: 1) approve incomplete training; 2) renounce Congress’ 80 percent wage replacement objective for all Trade Act training; and 3) ignore the preference for on-the-job training.

After ATF’s motion for summary judgment was briefed and argued, the case was settled. The settlement required DOL to spend $6.5 million on new job training for El Paso workers who previously received deficient training, and required nationwide policy changes that will end each of the agency practices that the workers alleged were unlawful.