Labor and Public Employees Committee

February 23, 2023

Presented By: Kathleen Callahan, MSW

Dear Honorable Chairpersons Kushner and Sanchez, Ranking Members Sampson and Ackert, Vice Chairs Cabrera and Wilson, and all other Members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly:

My name is Kathleen Callahan, a resident of Stratford, and a co-chair of the National Association of Social Workers Connecticut Chapter’s Education and Legislative Action Network (NASW/CT ELAN). I am testifying on behalf of the chapter which represents over 2,300 members. We call upon the Labor and Public Employees Committee to invest in job creations and support SB-151: An Act Establishing a Full Employment Trust Fund.

The legislative agenda of NASW/CT always begins by emphasizing advancing racial, economic, environmental, and social justice by a) supporting legislation that specifically promotes elimination of inequities and disparities relating to race, class, gender, ethnicity, and disability; and b) promoting culturally responsive practices in all aspects of community life, including education, affordable housing, employment, and equitable access to capital.

The provisions in the bill capture much of this, leveraging the language of the most recent national Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act, H.R. 1000 (2019), or the Jobs for All Act: allowing the fund to support workforce housing, employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth, and the expansion of work-study opportunities for secondary and post-secondary students.
Education and employment play pivotal roles in an individual’s economic and social mobility. The legislative approaches we seek address community needs to reduce economic disparities related to the accumulation of wealth or cycles of inescapable poverty and this bill is positioning Connecticut as a leader. Our state can provide equitable access to resources and the potential for livable wages for all job seekers to move Connecticut toward full employment.

As social workers, we have the honor of counting Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor, in our ranks. On February 25, 1935, 88 years ago almost to the day, she gave a radio address to the country about the Administration’s draft Economic Security Bill:

Recognizing unemployment as the greatest of all hazards, the committee gave primary emphasis to provisions for unemployment – employment assurance….Employment assurance, the stimulation of private employment and the provision of public employment for those able-bodied workers whom private industry cannot yet absorb is to be solely a responsibility of the Federal Government and its major contribution in providing safeguards against unemployment.”1

SB-151 would create the workforce we need in Connecticut today and raise wages throughout the state, similar to New Deal programs did during the Great Depression. Job creation helps jobless people and industry in need of workers, of course. It also helps community: individuals and families have the possibility of reducing debt, saving, and investing; small businesses have more customers; start-up companies have more investors; workers have bargaining power to demand fair wages; consumers have power to demand lower prices; and every individual, family and community has the value and
dignity that comes with having a job with the means to plan for the future.

Racial inequity of unemployment exists, with rates for Black workers historically and consistently twice that of white workers, regardless of education attainment. This is specifically disturbing when white workers with less education are employed when higher educated Black workers – in desired fields – are not.2

Beyond an individual’s prospects in the labor market, research details lifelong consequences of unemployment or underemployment, including but not limited to, increased rates of physical and mental illness, substance misuse, domestic violence, failed relationships, and suicide and attempted suicide.3

In closing, I look toward our future. We are living through multiple interconnected crises – the pandemic, systemic racism, climate change, opioid overdoses, youth suicidality, and punishing economic inequality – much which has been the only experience for our youngest residents. For far too many of our disconnected, opportunity youth in the state of Connecticut, this bill can be the start of restoring their vision for life.

NASW/CT urges the committee to pass SB-151 out of committee and allow the full Senate to begin debate on Connecticut’s economic vision for tomorrow.

With respect and gratitude for your service and consideration,

Kathleen Callahan NASW/CT ELAN Chair Stratford, CT

1 https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/social-security/social-security-a-radio-address-by-frances-perkins-1935/
2 https://socialequity.duke.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/A-Path-to-Ending-Poverty.pdf
3 https://socialequity.duke.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/A-Path-to-Ending-Poverty.pdf

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