Thanks to a legal clinic at Yale Law School, 265 laid off Connecticut workers are now eligible for income support, healthcare benefits and job retraining assistance.
Yale’s Transnational Development Clinic filed a complaint in March against the Department of Labor on behalf of Robert Maars, a metal-cutter who lost his job at the Marlin Firearms plant in North Haven when it announced its closing last year. Clinic members argued that the plant was forced to close in part because it could not compete with foreign imported sports rifles from China and Turkey — and on Sept. 7, the Labor Department agreed that Maars and his colleagues qualified for Trade Adjustment Assistance, government aid for workers who lose jobs to foreign trade. At a press conference Wednesday, Mayor John DeStefano and clinic representatives called the case an “important legal victory” in the national fight to reduce unemployment.
“The decision represents a victory for workers that dedicated their lives to building the Marlin brand,” DeStefano said. “The job training and critical income assistance is essential in ensuring that these workers have a pathway to future employment.” In New Haven, where 70 of the 265 workers live, the unemployment rate is roughly 10 percent.
Maars — a Branford resident who has been unemployed since April 2010 — said he approached the Law School clinic after the Department of Labor denied federal aid to the non-unionized employees of Marlin Firearms. When the Labor Department reversed its decision Sept. 7, Maars was “very happy,” he said, adding that he may now return to community college to figure out his next vocation.
He added that he first received Trade Adjustment Assistance roughly eight years ago, when the cosmetics packaging company where he worked moved overseas. The federal aid package can include income assistance, a healthcare tax credit and roughly $1,500 in relocation and job search expenses, among other benefits.
The Sept. 7 decision comes as the Trade Adjustment Assistance program faces scrutiny in Congress, professor and Clinic Director Muneer Ahmad said. The Obama administration wants to tie a re-authorization of the aid program to trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, he said. Some Republicans feel that renewing an expansion of the aid program would be inefficient and costly, the Associated Press reported Monday.
Daniel Knudsen LAW ’12, a clinic member, said he hopes the program continues to exist to help workers whose jobs have been cut by outsourcing or other side effects of globalization.
“The program is important because it helps domestic workers, particularly those in manufacturing,” he said in an interview with the News on Tuesday. “If we continue to open up free trade on one side, we should commit to helping those whom this harms as well.”
Ahmad formed the Transnational Development Clinic in the fall of 2010 to encourage law students to address legal issues related to global poverty. In addition to their work in Connecticut, Transnational clinic members traveled to India in January to fight for the rights of the country’s street vendors.