Sen. Blumenthal hosts job fair

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Sep. 30, 2011
Wanda Fuentes, a job-seeker, speaks with Jeanette Hernandez Walker about a job opening during the job fair. Photos by Frances Taylor.
Wanda Fuentes, a job-seeker, speaks with Jeanette Hernandez Walker about a job opening during the job fair. Photos by Frances Taylor.

Devon Duff has been searching for work for more than six months, without success. “There's just not a lot of work out there,” said Duff, who came to a job fair sponsored by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) at the Hartford Plaza Hotel in East Hartford on Sept 28. At the job fair, Duff was able to pick up an application for a job in the maintenance field. “I hope it leads to something,” Duff said.

Nearly 1,000 people showed up for the job fair, held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dozens of employers participated in the event. Connecticut has an unemployment rate of approximately 9.1 percent.

The job-seekers included people like Wanda Fuentes, who was laid off from her 20-year job as a bank executive last year, only to find work and then be laid off again this year. “I'd like to change careers, but it’s hard,” Fuentes said. “It seems like I am over-qualified for some jobs, and don't have enough experience for others.”

Jillian Dumulo was a recruiter for First Niagara Bank, which has openings for tellers and back office positions. “We're definitely expanding, and we are looking for high-energy individuals who are good at customer service and teamwork,” Dumulo said. “We've seen some good candidates here today.”

Blumenthal spoke with a number of people at the job fair. “We've gotten great participation from both employers and job-seekers,” he said.

In addition to the job fair, Blumenthal is co-sponsoring a bill with U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd District) that seeks to ban discrimination by employers against the unemployed. Despite the ongoing recession, some employers are increasingly unwilling to hire long-unemployed people.

Blumenthal said his office has been able to show that such discrimination is occurring due to complaints made by job-seekers to his office, and from documented cases.

“We've been seeing and hearing about ads that say unemployed people need not apply, or people unemployed for more than a certain period of time need not apply,” Blumenthal said. “Our bill would ban that type of discrimination, and impose civil penalties on employers who engage in that type of discrimination.”

Blumenthal said that he is seeking bi-partisan support for that bill, and that he hopes such a ban will make some employers think twice about only hiring people who are already employed.

With 20 million people unemployed across the country, and more than 6 million out of work for six months or more, “we've become a pink-slip nation,” Blumenthal said. “For employers to engage in that type of activity, it will make it very difficult to turn things around.”

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