Utah business officials say good riddance to trade legislation vetoed by President Reagan Tuesday, objecting to plant closure notification requirements included in the measure.
But union leaders laud the legislation and hope Reagan's veto will not mean an end to the measure.The president vetoed the bill chiefly because of a provision in it requiring 60 days' advance notice of plant closures - an amendment that also prompted Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch, both R-Utah, to vote against it.
Even though he sponsored another interesting provision included in the measure, "Overall, I think the bill stinks," Garn said through spokeswoman Laurie Snow.
Garn sponsored a provision imposing sanctions against the Toshiba Corp. for selling sensitive equipment to the USSR. But in the end, he rejected the bill itself mainly because of the notification provision, Snow said.
Hatch also balked at the bill, objecting to the closure notification issue. The senator sees the provision as another example of government playing the role of the "camel with its nose under the tent," interfering with private business concerns, said Paul Smith, Hatch's spokesman.
A Huntsman Chemical Corp. official echoed Hatch's complaints about government interference in business affairs.
Calling the Huntsman company a "family business," Vice President Patrick Schwartz said the corporation's chief executive officer, Jon Huntsman, would find not notifying employees of a pending closure "unconscionable."
However, the corporation philosophically objects to "carte blanche" government rulings meddling in private business operations, he said.
BP America Inc., formerly Kennecott Copper Corp., also panned the plant closing provision of the bill.
"We feel that (plant closing notification) should be handled in the context of collective bargaining agreements, not government mandates," said spokesman Tom Koch of BP's Cleveland office.
Some Utah industries already include such notification in employee contracts.
"We do not have a problem with the plant closure provision," Geneva Steel spokesman Jack Bollow said. The plant, which employs 1,900 workers, guarantees that workers will be notified in advance of a closure, he said.
While Geneva said the notification provision would have little impact, union officials said requiring plants to notify workers of a closing is a company's duty.
"We feel that employers have some social obligation" to notify their employees of a plant closing, said Steve Richins of the Utah Building Trades Council, an AFL-CIO-affiliated organization.
Detractors say the plant closing requirement warns other businesses of plant failures, preventing possible buyouts or other remedies. But one Utah economist said that rarely do impending plant closures go unnoticed by the business community anyway.
"When plants are in trouble, everybody knows about it months in advance," said Thayne Robson, director of the University of Utah's Economic Development and Research Center.
The trade bill, which also gives U.S. trade representatives power to retaliate against unfair trading practices and tightens laws against dumping goods in the United States, is "more political than substantive," Robson said.
"The solution (to the nation's trade deficit) is to more effectively negotiate, not to pass retaliatory legislation," he said. Promoting free trade, not sanctioning countries with which the United States has a trade deficit, is the solution, he said.