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Aaron Regunberg: Governor Chafee Should Prevent DLT Layoffs

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Imagine a grocery store that consistently has long, hectic checkout lines. The cashiers work hard, but they’re so understaffed and there are so many customers to serve that, even on the best of days, delays are hard to avoid. In this situation, we’d all probably agree it would be a poor business decisionfor the grocery store to announce plans to lay off a significant portion of its cashiers. And our indignation would grow, I imagine, if—instead of a grocery store—the understaffed organization doing the laying off were an institution that performs vital public services, both for individuals in need and for the state economy as a whole.

That’s why I expect we’ll be hearing more outrage from Rhode Islanders over the next month about the State Department of Labor and Training’s plans to lay off between 65 and 69 frontline workers in the areas of Unemployment Insurance and Workforce Development on July 28, when federal DLT support sunsets. This is such a patently bad idea it almost seems like something out of an absurdist Monty Python sketch. I can practically hear the comedy routine now:

“So let me get this straight. Rhode Island has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, right?”

“That’s right.”

“And over 62,000 Rhode Islanders depend on DLT employees to handle their unemployment claims and help them in their job searches, right?”

“That’s right.”

“And the number of unemployment claims being handled by these employees is still incredibly high, right?”

“That’s right—they processed over 27,000 claims in the first week of June alone.”

“So a lot of unemployed Rhode Islanders are already facing delays getting their benefits because of understaffing, right?”

“Oh, yes indeed; why, many unemployed are waiting on hold for hours, days even, just to get in touch with us.”

“And now you’re planning to lay off close to 70 of these frontline workers, guaranteeing an exponential increase in the delays Rhode Islanders must face to access their benefits?

“That’s right!”

“Despite the fact that these layoffs will likely hit specialized offices—like the one dedicated to processing military claims—the hardest? Meaning this will quite possibly create especially long delays for our heroes returning home from the Middle East, many of whom will need unemployment benefits as they rotate back into civilian life?”

“That’s right!”

“Even though you understand that these delays will hurt the economy of the whole state, blocking these much-needed benefit (and stimulus) dollars from flowing into local businesses?”

“Yes sir!”

“And you also understand that the State of Rhode Island, as a direct reimbursable employer, will be responsible for paying these laid off employees when they file for Unemployment Insurance, meaning taxpayer dollars will be going to these folks either way?”

“That’s right!”

“So, given all that, don’t you think it would be better to, you know, not lay off these 70 employees?”

(Punchline): “Oh, well, no…I mean, Chafee knows what’s best. If he says we’ve got to lay them off, we’ve got to lay them off. I’m sure he’s thought this through.”

Okay, so it’s not as funny as a good Monty Python sketch. But it’s definitely just as absurd. We’re in an unemployment crisis in this country, and things are particularly terrible here in Rhode Island. When you’re in a crisis, you don’t eviscerate the frontlines. You strengthen them. The unemployed in this state can’t afford these layoffs, and Governor Chafee has a responsibility to do what it takes to keep these employees serving those in need of assistance. Let’s hope he sees the light, before our state makes another stupid, stupid, stupid mistake.


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These employees were hired with fed stimulus $$$$. Are you saying that stimulus $$$ doesn't really stimulate anything.

Comment #1 by Chris MacWilliams on 2012 06 23

Rhode Island has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, right?”
“That’s right.”
“And over 62,000 Rhode Islanders depend on DLT employees to handle their unemployment claims and help them in their job searches, right?”
That’s also right Mr. Regunberg, BUT, how many of these people attained a job from the DLT? Very few except those that were hired by the DLT to work in their department.
These programs are all well and good to assist people in finding jobs when you have an economy. RI has no economy to speak of as the government, for the most part, IS the economy.
This program along with the RIEDC are all “feel good” initiatives that only benefit those involved with them.
Government, both federal and state will someday learn that they can’t create jobs or find jobs. They can only create an atmosphere that will encourage job growth, i.e., cut taxes and other fees that suck the life out of an economy. RI has too many give-away programs that the taxpayers can no longer afford. A 6% increase in government spending is also hurting any chance of economic development. Government stimulas programs have only benefitted government employees - there has been very little trickling down to the private sector. When Obama came around with his stimulas program for RI, Sen. Reed announced that there would be 6,000 new jobs for Rhode Islanders. Where are the jobs Jack? The money instead went to government workers to keep them on the payroll.
Instead of worrying about nickels, we should be focused on the dollars to get this state moving!

Comment #2 by Lance Chappell on 2012 06 23

Lance, I actually think we are totally on the same page about one thing--the services these employees do definitely isn't the answer to what is a fundamentally structural problem (we need structural answers).

But the services they provide are still really important. Again, if you talk to any unemployed folks who've had to file for U.I., you'll already hear a lot of frustrating stories about delays and problems getting those benefits because of how under-staffed the agency is currently. Taking away so many more staff is going to make these problems far, far worse, making life even harder for the unemployed. That's just not something we should be doing, in my opinion.

Comment #3 by Aaron Regunberg on 2012 06 23

I think Chaffee should start acting like a Governor.

Has there ever been a governor in the history of ANY state, that was disliked by such a large percentage of it's state's population?

Only in RI. I'm really getting sick of stating that term too.

Comment #4 by pearl fanch on 2012 06 24

Fact: Those individuals who participated in the DLT's Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment (REA) program via the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) had a reemployment percentage of approximately 70% within six months of separation from their last employer.

Fact: Private industry has consistently outsourced RI manufacturing jobs. The DLT's Workforce Development Sector has aided and facilitated further education, putting Rhode Islanders back to work in those few industries holding stable in job growth.

Fact: Private industry tax-breaks have been offered, made and have failed. Need I remind you about 38 Studios? All of whom have filed for benefits. This was a deal cut by Carcieri, by the way.

Shall I continue with the facts, Lance? Or should I just remind you that Public Sector, civil servants don't choose this career to get rich. They sacrifice that prospect for the opportunity to help people and hopefully ensure a secure, middle-class income that offers security for themselves and their families.

Comment #5 by Jonathan Jacobs on 2012 06 25


Be interesting to see some facts on why these jobs left RI and where they went to.

Comment #6 by Michael Byrnes on 2012 06 25


The jobs went overseas. Rhode Island's economy was, for decades, based on the manufacturing industry. Rhode Island does not manufacture anything anymore. The heads of the companies found it much cheaper to take those jobs to countries with no regulations, taxes and minimum wage laws.

Comment #7 by Jonathan Jacobs on 2012 06 25


Any factual back up? Perhaps many jobs may have migrated to other states?

Few countries have NO regulations, taxes and minimum wage laws - even US companies operating on China have been bringing back jobs to the US due to increasing regulation, taxes and labor rate increases.

Comment #8 by Michael Byrnes on 2012 06 25

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