Jobs pipeline offers hope

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New Haven, Conn. -- Youth, the unemployed, elected officials, educators, union leaders, and the business community were all represented at a public hearing of the committee mandated by the Board of Aldermen to establish a jobs pipeline in the city.

Prompted by the deaths of 34 youths to violence in New Haven last year, the new Board of Aldermen, mostly elected as part of a grass roots labor/community coalition, made the jobs pipeline its first priority along with meeting the needs of youth and public safety.

David White, a leader of the New Elm City Dream youth organization, told the committee, "Youth are tired of being targeted. We need community centers, jobs; something to do." He asked the committee to take the approach of "communities rebuilding communities," involving the unemployed in infrastructure projects in their own neighborhoods.

"Help not just one, but all," he said, repeating the slogan "Jobs for Youth - Jobs for All." He added, "show unification among us all, let the youth show that they can do something. We're fighting for the dream," he concluded.

White and Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson were the first to testify in the crowded chamber. Eidleson, newly elected to Ward 1, which includes Yale University dormitories, chairs the Youth Committee of the Board.  She said her committee held an important hearing where youth came forward to tell their stories and offer their suggestions.

Fifteen members of NECD testified. The youngest, Jackie Marks, eight years old, said that many families are suffering economically. "I'm here because we need jobs," she said.

"With access to training and jobs, these youth can be leaders," concluded Eidelson.

Art Perlo, representing the Unemployed Committee at the New Haven Peoples Center, documented several cases where administrators hired candidates they knew instead of hiring qualified local residents. He urged that the jobs pipeline include requirements to monitor and take measures to prevent this systemic discrimination.

Speaker after speaker gave their own reasons for supporting the jobs pipeline, including one woman who has been unemployed and looking for work for three years after the company where she worked in a skilled position downsized.

A member of Local 34 at Yale University, Iris Diaz, emphasized how important the Yale Residents Program was for her. She had never imagined that she could get a job at Yale. The union-initiated program opened the doors for a limited number of community residents to get training leading to a good union job at Yale. She called for the program to be reinstated.

Alderman Jorge Perez, president of the Board of Aldermen and also president of the pipeline committee, welcomed all public comment as the committee searches for solutions.  Members of the committee include representatives from labor, business, educational institutions, non-profits, government, and the community.

Several representatives of the Connecticut Center for a New Economy reported on research projects regarding possible new, green jobs, and comparisons with other cities also attempting to create opportunities for youth and unemployed to enter into the construction trades.

Rev. Scott Marks, a founder of CCNE said the pipeline committee "gives me hope," adding that among those killed last year were three family members. He said that a sustainable income in New Haven is $50,000 a year, but most jobs are $25,000 and fifty percent have no jobs. Urging that the racial divide in joblessness be addressed, he said that at the thousands of doors knocked this year the top issue was jobs.

"We need good, sustainable jobs and a commitment from employers to hire locally. Stop the violence. Create the jobs pipeline," concluded Marks to applause.

Neighborhood organizing has already begun to prepare for a march on Wednesday, Apr. 25 at 5:30 pm to send a loud and clear message, "Let's get to work."  The labor and community march will begin at the New Haven Green.

Photo: Lisa Bergmann/PW

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