United Action Connecticut

Our Mission

Strengthening communities by bringing people and congregations together to foster initiatives for improving lives through social justice work - this is the mission and purpose of United Action Connecticut. United Action is an interfaith, multi-racial, multi-lingual organization crossing political, economic and urban/suburban boundaries. We hope that you will join us in our pursuits to advance civil rights for immigrants, improve health care access, build awareness for mental illness, and to lobby for key legislation in these areas.

UACT's Issues Work for 2022

  • Civil Rights for Immigrants
  • Health Care Access
  • Protections for Domestic Workers

 

 

UACT Receives CCHD Grant

On June 9th United Action CT was notified that they were awarded a $6,500 Catholic Campaign for Human Development Grant from the Office of Catholic Social Justice Ministry of the Archdiocese of Hartford. UACT is thrilled to be the recipients of a grant from CCHD. The grant begins July first and runs for a year. “I was ecstatic when I received the letter of notification, and I truly want to thank Lynn Campbell and the CCHD committee for having the faith in our ability to manage this important project” said Executive Director Mark Kosnoff.  

 

The purpose of the grant is to provide mental health support provided by 2 immigrants and a clinical social worker. The undocumented community does not have access to mental health services because most don’t have health insurance. Understandably, many in this community are struggling with some degree of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress in response to political and social conditions that these immigrants experience. (If you tried to create a situation to subject human beings to depression, anxiety, and trauma, the current political situation in the US creates the perfect storm.)

 

 The goal of this grant is to empower undocumented immigrants and DACA youth to support each other in addressing mental health needs. José Díaz, a community organizer and DACA recipient, and Karen Dworski, LCSW, are facilitating a monthly zoom mental health info session and a support group. These can be held in Spanish, English or both languages. Patricia Rosas, an immigrant, provides important input and advice, as well as organizing and support services - emails, texts, and phone calls. The desired outcome is to grow to at least 2 mental health info sessions a month and 2 support groups a month, both currently in Spanish, with the goal of meeting more often as more people indicate that they would like to participate. A long-term goal is to hold trainings which will enable participants to facilitate and guide the support group as well as provide the facilitation and education for the info sessions.

 

The monthly info session provides education about depression, stress/anxiety, trauma and other mental health issues. The education also focuses on helping participants to develop their own coping skills and strategies which participants can use throughout their lives. The monthly support group is a place where community members can talk about the issues in their lives and receive mutual support in a non-judgmental environment.

 

Without mental health support, people struggle to cope with the demands of family life, work, and basic life management. Many undocumented immigrants are front line workers who are especially stressed and vulnerable during the pandemic. As people come together to improve mental health, they are better able to work, cope with family needs, take political action and improve quality of life. Moving out of poverty requires that these fundamental human needs are met.

 

As the group matures, leadership and facilitation will be taken up by group members. The info session and the support group encourage leadership within the groups. For example, community members are asked which issues they would like to discuss in the info session and support group- setting their own agenda. Leaders will naturally emerge through participation in the info sessions and support groups, this leadership experience can then be translated into working for social and institutional change. As people feel more in control of their lives and their emotional wellbeing, this would have a ripple effect on employment and working for social change

 

2022 Justice Celebration Dinner

On Wednesday, June 15, United Action Connecticut held its 14th Annual Justice Celebration at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester. This was the first celebration dinner since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first time it was held at CBSRZ. 

Rabbi Marcie Bellows welcomed the diverse gathering and delivered an inspirational prayer and song to begin the festivities. As is UACT’s custom, dinner consisted of homemade, ethnic dishes, and CBSRZ member Neil Gottlieb played tunes from “Fiddler on the Roof” while people ate.  

Executive Director, Mark Kosnoff, led the program after dinner which was highlighted by honoring three individuals for their social justice work. 

First was Megan Fountain, the program coordinator for Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA).  She has coordinated grassroots campaigns for worker justice; safety without deportations; parent power in the public schools; and economic relief for immigrants excluded from COVID protections.  She also serves on the Coordinating Committee of Recovery for All CT, and she coordinates the CT Domestic Worker Education Program to elevate the labor standards of nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers. 

Lizbeth Polo-Smith was next to be honored. Lizbeth is an activist in the New London area and has been a champion of immigrants’ rights. In 2020 Lizbeth went to work with the Hispanic Alliance helping with relief efforts for COVID-19. She helped many people of different races and from different cities, such as Mystic, Norwich, New London, Groton and Waterford, providing food, baby milk, diapers and money. The group also helped distribute 3,750 gift cards from 4 CT. She currently is working as a community health worker with the Ledge Light Health District (LLHD). 

Finally, UACT honored one of its own, Patricia Rosas. Patricia is one of UACT’s Hispanic organizers and was one of the founding members of Manos Unidas, a Hispanic organization in New Britain and a member of UACT. Patricia has been a tireless activist for immigrants’ rights and has worked on the undocumented drivers license campaign, HUSKY 4 Immigrants campaign, the Connecticut Domestic Worker Justice Campaign and is a member of the Hartford Deportation Defense organization. 

This year’s keynote speaker was Reverend Josh Pawelek from the Unitarian-Universalist Society East in Manchester. Rev. Pawelek spoke about the “turf wars” among social justice organizations in the past and acknowledged that UACT may now be the oldest social justice organization in the state. Rev. Pawelek went on to speak about all the trauma that now exists in the world but countered with the “good news” that organizations like UACT, ULA, the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA), and the Naugatuck Valley Project (NVP), provide by fighting and advocating for social justice. 

Ocean Pellett of Niantic Community Church led an activity to highlight this year’s theme of “Communities Coming Together” and Father Russell Kennedy of St. Francis of Assisi in Middletown led the closing prayer. It was exciting to once again have so many people from so many backgrounds come together and celebrate the successes of social justice.     

 

  

 

Human Services Committee Votes Against HUSKY 4 Immigrant Bill

As noted in our March E-News the 2022 HUSKY 4 Immigrants Campaign was launched on Monday, February 7th with a virtual press conference attended by over 100 individuals. The HUSKY 4 Immigrant campaign addresses two of UACT’s cornerstone social justice issues, rights for undocumented immigrants and affordable healthcare access to all residents. In 2021 the Connecticut legislature did enact a bill that would allow undocumented children ages 0-8 and pregnant women to obtain pre- and post-natal care through HUSKY, which is Connecticut’s Medicaid program for low-income people. 

For 2022, the HUSKY 4 Immigrant coalition sought to expand the law and open HUSKY up to all undocumented Connecticut residents. In early March, Senate Bill 284 was raised and referred to the Human Services Committee of the State legislature. SB 284 would raise the eligible age of undocumented children to 18, not exactly what the coalition was seeking but certainly a step in the right direction. 

The Human Services Committee held a hearing on the bill on March 10th. Over 200 people testified via Zoom in support of SB 284 and over 350 sent in written testimony supporting the measure. The hearing lasted 12 hours and many of those who spoke gave heart-wrenching testimony about the inability to get medical care or pay for much needed medications. A tremendous amount of work by the coalition went into signing up individuals, providing translation for testimony and helping others to access the on-line hearing. United Action personnel were also available for mental health support. 

Following is a You Tube link to one of the testimonies: https://youtu.be/ZCipuiTucsA 

Shockingly, on March 17, the Human Services Committee did not vote in favor of the bill and the motion failed. The final vote tally was 10-10 with all Republicans on the committee voting against the bill and three of the thirteen Democrats also voting against moving the bill forward. Nevertheless, the coalition has vowed to continue the fight for healthcare access to the undocumented community.

In regards to the final vote on S.B. 284 and our stance, please view the press release for more information - After a Strong Show of Support at a Public Hearing Legislators Must Listen to Doctor's Orders and Take Action on Bill to Provide Undocumented Minors with Healthcare

HUSKY 4 Immigrants Campaign

The 2022 HUSKY 4 Immigrants campaign was launched on Monday, February 7th with a virtual press conference attended by over 100 individuals. Last year the Connecticut State Legislature enacted a bill that expanded Medicaid coverage to undocumented children ages 0-8 years old and pre and postnatal care for undocumented women beginning in 2023. Although this was an important first step, the bill falls short of ensuring that all Connecticut residents have access to quality, affordable health care. As the 2022 Connecticut legislative session begins, we are asking that everyone make their voices heard by demanding that ALL Connecticut residents have access to healthcare – regardless of their immigration status. 

Senator Matt Lesser of Middletown and Rep. Jillian Gilchrist of West Hartford both addressed the campaign launch and vowed their support for an expanded health care bill. Julia Rosenberg, a pediatrician from Yale New Haven Health Care, spoke of the dire consequences that a lack of health care access can have on childhood development. Several undocumented residents also spoke and described the adverse effects of being unable to get medical treatment on a regular basis. 

The fact is that the undocumented community is blocked from accessing health coverage (and often healthcare itself) in Connecticut.  They cannot apply to Access Health CT’s qualified health plans, the majority are not eligible for HUSKY despite paying an estimated $335.4 million in federal taxes and $197.4 million in state and local taxes, and private insurance companies are either too expensive or outright reject applications. 

What you can do now? 

  1. Sign our Petition! Let's show our legislators we support HUSKY Healthcare expansion to immigrant communities! SIGN OUR PETITION   https://bit.ly/3ozaAjy 
  2. Follow us on social media to keep updated with our campaign!  

https://www.facebook.com/HUSKY4IMMIGRANTS 

https://www.instagram.com/husky4immigrants/ 

https://twitter.com/4_husky

 

Unitarian-Universalist Church Replaces Banner

Steve Volpini and Diane Szymaszek unfurl the new BLM bannerThe Unitarian-Universalist Church of Meriden, a UACT member congregation, held a ceremony on Sunday, January 16 to replace a Black Lives Matter flag for the fourth time after three previous flags or banners were stolen by unknown vandals. The ceremony was also an opportunity for the church to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

The Rev. Tony Lorenzen said the church is less concerned with seeking punishment against the thieves than with them having the courage to engage in a face-to-face discourse about what the flags mean and how the vandalism has made city residents feel unsafe 

“We will want you to talk to you about why these banners and flags are here, we will talk to you about this and tell you they are here to combat the fear, anger and hate you embody,’ he said. “They are here to tell people we are proud Americans and citizens of Meriden and this is a place where all human beings are truly welcome. These flags and banners are here because people keep getting killed because of the color of their skin in our country.” 

In addition to the theft of the flags, Lorenzen said two vehicles have been driving by the church and shouting swear words. 

In addition to Rev. Lorenzen, other speakers included church co-president Nancy Burton, Meriden State Representative Hilda Santiago, former Mayor and current City Council member Mike Rohde and Meriden Board of Education member Sheri Amechi. Co-President Burton also read a statement from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who could not attend, in support of church leadership. 

After the speakers and a moment of silence for all those who have been targeted by violence on account of their race, the BLM flag was draped over the railing of the church’s veranda. Members of the congregation also read over a dozen names of African Americans who have been killed while going about their lives. 

The new flag hangs alongside an American flag, a Pride flag, a Mother Earth flag and a flag celebrating religions from across the world. The church’s Pride flag has also been stolen in the past. 

 

Build Back Better Rally

Rev. Josh Pawelek speaks at the BBB rally.A contingent of advocates, clergy, immigrants and domestic workers gathered outside Senator Richard Blumenthal’s office in Hartford on December 21st to rally for President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. The BBB bill has become mired in a legislative quagmire as all 50 Republican Senators refuse to consider supporting the plan despite the fact that over 60 % of Americans approve it. Recently Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has also voiced his opposition to the plan making its passage virtually impossible. The group gathered in Hartford were there to urge Senator Blumenthal to continue his support of the BBB plan and do whatever he can to see it gets passed.

Reverend Josh Pawelek of the Unitarian-Universalist Society of Manchester led the group in prayer and also remarked that the BBB plan contains provisions that will benefit childcare, early childhood education and the environment but just as important are provisions for elder care that will benefit essential care workers that have toiled for years without benefits, low pay and virtually none of the protections most other workers enjoy.  In addition, Reverend Pawelek commented, the BBB plan provides a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants who have worked on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sophia Rodriguez of the Connecticut Worker Center and Jacqueline Dias of the Naugatuck Valley Project both told their stories of working as domestic workers for many years without any benefits, no paid days off, but long hours.

Despite the cold temperatures, those attending the rally cheered on the speakers and implored Senator Blumenthal, who did not appear at the rally, to continue to support the BBB plan and do everything in his power to persuade other non-committed Senators to do the same.

In addition to the Connecticut Worker Center and Naugatuck Valley Project, representatives from Unidad Latina en Acciòn, United Action CT, Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible, the Office of Catholic Social Justice Ministry and the National Domestic Workers Alliance were in attendance.