NJFAN’s Connecticut Jobs and Human Rights Task Force Expands Outreach:  Former Social Work Interns Join Staff as Organizers

The Connecticut Jobs and Human Rights Task Force is the outcome of a 2021 virtual New Haven Town Hall meeting to raise consciousness of the problem of unemployment in Connecticut and the need for sustainable jobs that meet human needs. Building on a model initiated in Dayton Ohio and later implemented in Memphis Tennessee by NJFAN Outreach Coordinator Logan Martinez, the New Haven Town Hall was followed by regular monthly meetings that sought to operationalize some of the policy goals articulated by speakers in the meeting.  This involved continued consciousness-raising about the importance of direct government job creation at both state and federal levels, including efforts to educate legislators about this need. One result of this undertaking is the introduction by Senator Gary Winfield of a bill in the CT legislature, Senate Bill 151 – An Act Establishing A Full Employment Trust Fund.

The Connecticut initiative is directed by Professor Stephen Monroe Tomczak, Coordinator of the Community Practice Program at Southern Connecticut State University. In its two years of existence, the Connecticut initiative was staffed by Master of Social Work students–to our knowledge the first such use of social work interns in a full employment advocacy effort. Organization of the 2021 Town Hall was the assignment of Sarianna Sabbarese. In the following year, Jennifer Perez had responsibility for the formation of the Jobs and Human Rights Task Force as well as work on the legislation. Sabbarese went on to intern on other projects with NJFAN in a second-year internship.

Having completed their Master of Social Work education, Jennifer Perez and Sarianna Sabbarese have been hired by NJFAN as organizers for the Connecticut Jobs and Human Rights Task Force. Their assignment includes a number of goals. The group that has formed the backbone of this effort to raise consciousness about the importance of full employment and direct government job creation has been largely New Haven-based, so a primary focus of organizing efforts is to increase the geographic diversity of Task Force membership.

A second focus of recruitment efforts is to increase the sectoral diversity of the Task Force. Labor participation has largely consisted of individuals representing academic workers. Continuing outreach will be directed toward other sectors of the labor movement as well as the faith community and social and economic justice advocacy groups.

Finally, Perez and Sabbarese will intensify efforts already initiated by the Connecticut project. They will attempt to enhance representation across race, social class, and gender among those who are most intensely impacted by the lack of an employment guarantee.

“It is our hope,” says Professor Tomczak, “that building a state-based, intersectional group in Connecticut can advance the goals of all the various entities working for social, economic, and environmental justice in Connecticut and, hopefully, the entire country.  The central premise underlying all of this work is our understanding that, as President Franklin Roosevelt and others understood, guaranteeing the right to employment, the right to participate fully and freely in life-sustaining productive processes, is central to achieving all human rights for everyone.”

In an effort to advocate for more extensive funding for public higher education and social welfare programs, Dr. Tomczak was arrested on June 1st as part of a civil disobedience action sponsored by Recovery for All, a statewide coalition of labor, social justice and faith organizations in which several members of the Connecticut Jobs and Human Rights Task Force participate.

State initiatives like the Connecticut Jobs and Human Rights Task Force are important in themselves. But they can also build support for a Federal Job Guarantee and related human rights. We invite economic justice and human rights advocates in other states to consider establishing or strengthening initiatives like the Connecticut Jobs and Human Rights Task Force that are dedicated to building support for living-wage, dignified work for all. NJFAN Outreach Coordinator, Logan Martinez, stands ready to work with you to build or enhance existing initiatives in your states.*

*Contact jobsforalloutreach@gmail.com

Published July 22, 2023

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