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    Op-Ed
    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    What future will they have?

    Recently, a report in the local print media stated that Connecticut counts as many as 12,000 high school dropouts on its “books” and 119,000 of the state’s young people are at risk. We, the Democratic incumbents and candidates for Norwich City Council, see this as a travesty rooted in the many lingering impacts of the one-size-fits-all educational policies of the Bush-2 era and the lasting effects of the pandemic. But we are more interested in finding solutions to helping this generation of students find their way to self-sufficiency through gainful, living-wage employment.

    One such path is provided by Project Labor Agreements. A Project Labor Agreement, or PLA, is a commitment by a town or city that it will require contractors to pay prevailing union negotiated wages and benefits, employ a significant percentage of the city’s residents, provide job training to those who need it to qualify for those job opportunities, and provide internships and apprenticeships to young adults entering the workforce for the first time. PLAs are the things that a healthy and sustainable middle-class is built with, and the middle-class is the engine that powers the economy at every level.

    What other path will help our young adults achieve financial independence? What other mechanism can provide these kids, those with and without a high school diploma, a chance to attain more than poverty-level wages? Where else will the next generation of tradespeople come from?

    The city of Norwich is spending $200 million on a sewer treatment plant, without a PLA. No jobs, or job training or apprenticeships are promised to Norwich and New London County residents. The contractors will bring in their own employees, do the work and take the money they earn home with them when they leave.

    Norwich is about to spend $385 million on its school system. Norwich residents should benefit first, and the most, from the contracts that will be paid for with your tax dollars. Our unemployed and under-employed should have access to job training for these projects, our young adults should have the opportunity to attain the job skills and experience to enter the workforce. This can only be mandated by a PLA.

    The Democratic candidates named below support a Project Labor Agreement for the school building project because we support you and we support the generation of hard-working young people to come next. We want the same opportunities that we have enjoyed for those who will follow us into the workforce.

    Joseph A. DeLucia

    Tracey Burto

    Swarnjit Singh

    Robert Aldi

    Mark Bettencourt

    Shiela Hayes

    Editor’s note: DeLucia, Burto and Singh are current members of the Norwich City Council.

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