After a disastrous beginning to their relationship, state officials are courting Navistar International Corp. workers with everything but flowers.
Indiana Department of Workforce Development officials say theyve streamlined the benefits application process that sent Navistar workers jumping through hoops for months without results.
On July 22, The Journal Gazette published stories detailing their frustration.
In a news release issued Tuesday, state officials described the process of getting benefits approved through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program as newly improved and expedited. The Workforce Development office oversees the federal TAA program in Indiana.
State officials are inviting former and current Navistar workers to attend two orientation sessions today detailing the revamped program.
Joe Frank, the agencys spokesman, said state, local and federal officials are now in contact daily to help bust through the roadblocks to getting training and other applications approved.
But a union official said a bad taste lingers in many workers mouths. The big problem were having is just getting people to give them a second chance, said Mike Coil, bargaining chairman for United Auto Workers Local 2911, which represents some of the workers.
Frank said his agency is making good on its promises. Some of the estimated 150 Navistar workers who attended similar orientation meetings last week have already had their TAA applications approved, he said. He estimated seven plans have been given the green light in the past 1 1/2 days alone.
Coil approves of the states effort.
Theyre keeping their word. Theyre fixing things, he said. No ones been denied yet.
Karen Karrer, a 46-year-old Fort Wayne woman who was featured in the previous Journal Gazette article, has been approved to pursue a degree in criminal justice, Coil said.
When state officials balked at paying for a laptop computer needed to access the electronic textbooks Karrers classes require, local WorkOne Northeast officials pursued the issue until the expense was approved, Coil said.
Theyve more than stepped up, he said of Kathleen Randolph and her lieutenants.
Even so, Coil continues to monitor the situation. The union leader is confident that state officials will continue handling applications quickly as long as he keeps their feet to the fire.
But he worries theyll slack off if he does.
When I have 50 (members) training plans approved, he said, then Ill start to relax.