A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill to make it tougher for companies to pull the rug out from under workers by shutting down plants. They say that the country’s 21-year- old plant closing law is not doing the job.

While current law applies to companies with 50 or more workers, the new bill would include all firms with 25 or more employees. The new measure would extend to three from two, the number of months notice required for a plant closure and require the company to notify both the state governor and the relevant congressional representatives of any workers affected. In addition, workers would get double back pay for each day during which the company fails to give required notice and it would give the Labor Department more enforcement power against companies that break the law. A recent government report indicates that two thirds of the companies that have shut down plants have violated the Warn Act, the old law that the Forewarn Act, as the new bill is called, would replace.

The Forewarn Act is sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and George Miller, D-Calif. In the House the effort for passage is being led by Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y.

The original Warn Act was the result of pressure by the labor movement during the Reagan administration after a rash of plant closings caught thousands of workers off guard. The labor movement has long held that the law needed to be updated.

The Labor Department reported that in 2008 there were a record 7,818 mass layoffs, each of which affected at least 50 workers.

The three legislators issued a joint statement this week relating that figure to the legislation they are proposing.

“The mass layoffs are not just numbers. They also do enormous damage to workers, families and communities,” they said. “Workers deserve more than a pink slip when they lose their jobs because of the nation’s economic difficulties. Current protections for workers being laid off are both confusing and rarely enforced. While an early warning might not save their job, a meaningful early notice will help them prepare to find a new job or upgrade their skills for new employment,” Miller said in his own statement.