March Dismisses Yale’s Local-Hiring “Promise”

Aliyya Swaby PhotosA thousand demonstrators sent Yale a message: 500 jobs in two years is not enough.

The message was delivered as demonstrators took to the streets late Thursday afternoon to demand large employers in town hire more New Haveners, including New Haveners from low-income neighborhoods, at a time of a “job crisis.”

Organized by the activist organization New Haven Rising, members of unions, schools, and religious institutions packed both sidewalks and the road in between City Hall and the New Haven Green, carrying small, bright flags, banners, and human-sized placards in the name of better hiring practices.

New Haven Rising organizer Scott Marks (pictured) linked unemployment to civil unrest and recent riots in Baltimore, which he said “do not come out of thin air. There must be opportunities.” The jobs crisis disproportionately affects blacks and Latinos—18.5 percent and 20.7 percent unemployed respectively—compared to “our white brothers and sisters” in New Haven, 7.7 percent of whom are unemployed.

Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker, a Yale dining-hall worker and secretary of UNITE HERE Local 35, took aim at an announcement by a Yale official this week that the university had committed to hiring 500 New Haveners over the next two years. The university employs around 13,000 people, some 4,000 of them from the city.

“An employer can commit to hiring 500 members over 200 years. Realistically, how many will come from areas of need?” Walker asked the cheering crowd.

Walker called on Yale and Yale-New Haven Hospital to increase their hiring and make a “real plan to tackle real issues ... Hire the 500 New Haven residents now and clear the way for the thousands that are behind them!”

Her message—“#HireThe500Now” appeared as a slogan on demonstrators’ placards.

Yale Vice President Bruce Alexander wrote in a letter to city officials Tuesday that Yale is committing to hire at least 100 New Haveners for construction projects and another 400 for regular university jobs over the next 24 months. He said in an interview that he came up with the number in conversatsions with “community members” who asked for the commitment; another Yale official said the university currently hires less than 200 New Haveners a year. Alexander’s letter drew skeptical comments from some community members, who were unsure whether the promise had much substance or constituted a significant change in Yale’s practices..

Addressing the crowd Thursday evening, Mayor Toni Harp said the city also has a large responsibility to “respond to the jobs crisis,” along with other large employers. She cited New Haven Works, a job-placement agency created by alders and community members, as an existing step toward job creation.

A copy of her speech called Yale’s promise to hire 500 additional workers “very good news, and an undeniably positive step in the right direction, but we expect them to do more.” She did not read this part of the speech aloud.

Co-op High School students Najeem Abubakar and Izaiah Richards (pictured above left and middle) turned out to the rally, for different reasons. Star student Abubakar has been struggling to get a job throughout his time in high school, after applying to local retail stores and coffee shops.

“I’d never get a call back,” he said. But he said he noticed people from out of town working jobs he wanted.

Richards is the grandson of Dwight Alder Frank Douglass. “The first couple of times I got a job, it was because of a connection,” he said. He knows it’s easier for him than for most of his friends in New Haven, he said. That’s why he showed up to the rally.

It doesn’t get easier once students leave high school, said Caius Robertson (pictured above right), a student at Western Connecticut State University. She joined New Haven Rising after trying for three years to get a job without any luck. “I hadn’t had a good job experience independently,” outside of programs such as Youth@Work, when she was a high school student, Robertson said.

Demonstrators pulled Yale-New Haven Hospital into their demands, as one of the city’s largest employers along with Yale University. Organizers had planned to split the march into two—with one group headed to the hospital and one headed to Ingalls Rink, adjacent to the lots where Yale is spending $600 million building two new residential colleges. In an on-the-spot change of plans, everyone headed to the construction site.

Yale and Yale-New Haven “do a lot already. They will tell you they do. But is it enough?” Laurie Kennington, president of United HERE Local 34, asked at the Ingalls destination.

“No!” marchers roared back.

Kennington (pictured) called on Yale-New Haven to be “a community member that provides good jobs right here in the city,” especially as the organization expands throughout the state.

Yale-New Haven last year hired 620 New Haveners across the system and now employs 3,270 New Haveners total, according to spokesperson Vin Petrini. At the hospital itself, 2,800 of 12,400 employees are from New Haven, he said.

Recent state budget cuts will force Yale-New Haven to be “more focused on preserving the jobs we’ve got,” he said.

UNITE HERE Local 35 and Central Labor Council President Bob Proto said at Thursday’s rally that Yale and Yale-New Haven should “sit down with the community, sit down with all of us,” and the “job crisis could be solved. We need the two largest employers to step up.”

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posted by: woosterman on June 12, 2015  7:33am

Yale shouldn’t have to hire people just because they are from New Haven. The job should go to the most qualified individual. If New Havener’s can’t find work in New Haven, then they should look elsewhere or move. I’ve moved three different times in my life for a job. This is how the world works. You can’t always have your cake and eat it too.

posted by: Theodora on June 12, 2015  7:56am

I recognize that Yale and the hospital are the biggest employers in the city, but both have been far more responsible in hiring than most of the other companies in the city.

Who is prepared to start asking places like Higher One, Technolutions and the school district about their hiring practices?

posted by: westville man on June 12, 2015  8:17am

Woosterman,  I disagree. Yale saves millions each year with tax exemptions due to its “deal” with the State.  That costs me and other tax payers substantially.  The least they could do is hire qualified New Haven residents to circulate the dollar.
“Most qualified” is a red herring..and a unicorn.

posted by: jdossgollin on June 12, 2015  8:17am

It’s great to see that so many people in the community are getting engaged around this issue, which is really important. However, there are some issues with turning a HUGE problem (people in this city, and particularly in the hardest-hit communities, need jobs!) into Yale’s problem. The longer we depend on them, the worse off we will be.

(1) New Haven is gentrifying, like it or not. Local hiring requirements will only make it worse, and when working-class people move to East Haven, West Haven, or Hamden because they can’t afford New Haven any more, they’ll be kept from getting a job by rules they put in place to protect themselves.

(2) The problem isn’t that Yale (generally speaking) doesn’t hire New Haven residents. The problem is that NHPS grads don’t have the education, skills, and training to get high-paying jobs. This crisis isn’t about unfair hiring—it’s about failing our young people

(3) Yes, of course it’s true that adults need jobs too. But let’s recruit some new companies to New Haven. Let’s figure out how we can produce something useful in New Haven instead of begging Yale to let us wash dishes. I don’t know what the solution is, but there are enough smart and motivated people in this City that we should be able to find one.

(4) I feel differently about the Union now that it’s running the City, as compared to when it was a (much-needed) small voice demanding change.

(5) And finally, of all the things to push Yale on, I’m not sure this is the best one. What about taxes/PILOT, their property development policy, their transportation, etc etc etc.

OK I’m done. At the end of the day, great to see people come together to start to rebuild the broken bits of this city.

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on June 12, 2015  8:19am

Anyone with a college degree is expected, and it is understood, that you move to where there is work. 

Why should an individual who has invested less in their employability be granted greater concessions from employers?

posted by: Razzie on June 12, 2015  8:33am

I agree that we need to also look to the role of local governments in addressing the crisis; particularly the New Haven Board of Education and Housing Authority. We should especially look at the hiring practices of the Hamden and West Haven city governments and their respective Boards of Education. If these local governments and their agencies would step up to the plate, the problem would be pretty much solved. It is not ust a New Haven vs. Yale issue. We are in this together and no one should get a free pass.

posted by: breakingbad23 on June 12, 2015  9:19am

If the protesters were serious they would have protested when school was in session or even better, during commencement weekend. Do they think anyone is paying attention at Yale when the students have been gone for over a month? If you want to give Yale bad publicity there are 3 times during the year that hurt: Freshman arrival, Parents weekend and Commencement weekend.

posted by: ProUnion on June 12, 2015  9:34am

Both Local 34 and Local 35 need to STOP blaming Yale University and YNHH for New Haveners not having jobs. We live in a world were everyone is always looking to blame someone else for their problems. Step up to the plate and take responsibility for your own future! If your serious about getting a job you will look everywhere, not just in New Haven. I know many people that travel 30+ minutes to get to their jobs. And don’t give me the excuse that New Haveners can’t afford cars. I work with an employee who lives 90 minutes from work, owns a car and yet she still takes a bus to work everyday. Stop be lazy and get out there and look. And sometime you have to actually face the fact that you didn’t get the job because you actually weren’t the most qualified for the position!That doesn’t mean you should give or blame other people. Keep trying! Look outside of the City! Take free online courses and build your skills! Network!
As for Local 34…START FIGHTING AND RALLYING FOR YOUR CURRENT WORKERS GETTING LAID OFF!!!! NO ONE FROM THE OUTSIDE SHOULD BE HIRED UNTIL WE FIND JOBS FOR OUR OWN (LAID OFF WORKERS) FIRST!!!

posted by: westville man on June 12, 2015  10:15am

No one is asking Yale to “solve” the unemployment issue.  And you don’t need a college degree to make good money at Yale.  let’s stop with the spinning here.
Yale is an important piece if the employment puzzle. It spends millions on construction each year alone.  More of just that should be going to New Haven workers.  It benefits the workers, New Haven and Yale.  It’s not complicated.

posted by: hart1 on June 12, 2015  10:40am

...how about all city hires required to be city residents???

posted by: LoveNH on June 12, 2015  10:59am

jdossgollin got this just about right on.  We want more New Haven jobs? Grow the economy. Lengthen the runway. Attract business. Start a business. If you want 34 and 35 to worry about the longterm interests of New Haven, you are as foolhardy as New Haven Rising. 34 and 35 are about a power grab rather than the longterm interest of the city and its people. Scott Marks, who’s side you on? you on the side of the city and its people? Go do a march at the end of the runway and help bring in business.

posted by: mechanic on June 12, 2015  11:00am

I am a city resident who also works for the city.  However, requiring residency for all city employees, or even of employees of different departments, is a bad idea.  First of all, it greatly limits our pool of applicants.  Secondly, when a person works and lives in New Haven, he or she is never off the clock.  When I shop for groceries, or go to a concert on the Green, or just go out for coffee, I see students and parents with whom I work.  I enjoy these interactions, but I certainly do not begrudge anyone who keeps work and homelife separate by living in a different town.  Time to be one’s own person in one’s hometown helps refresh a New Haven employee so that he or she can come back and do their for our city during the workday.

Better to incent our workers to move to New Haven.  NHPS does a poor job of marketing the many homebuying programs that a teacher would receive by moving to New Haven, from the city’s own programs to the HUD programs available to teachers.  Then we’d have resident city employees who WANT to be here, rather than people being told where to live.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 12, 2015  11:45am

“I work with an employee who lives 90 minutes from work, owns a car and yet she still takes a bus to work everyday.”

Are we allowed to call BS on things, because really, this is absurd. 90 minutes from anywhere in CT takes you out of the state, hell it takes you most of the way to NYC from NH.

posted by: NewHaven06511 on June 12, 2015  12:08pm

Bob Proto. Warren Gould. Frank Carano. When was the last time the chief of the “New Haven” Central Labor Council a New Haven (city) resident? Perhaps theyre onto something and this should be regional.

posted by: FairHavenRes on June 12, 2015  12:19pm

@Madcap, it’s not entirely impossible, it really depends on how they’re calculating that 90 minutes.  One example: I live in New Haven, leave my house at 6:45am to bike to the train station and take a 7:19 train.  I arrive in Greenwich at 8:40, so I could say that my commute is nearly 2 hours one way.  Even if I catch a ride to the station it only cuts 15 mins from my commute.  It just depends on the math.

posted by: robn on June 12, 2015  12:37pm

If 34 and 35 demanded that the plus half of their Nonresident Union brothers and sisters would move back into New Haven the positive economic effects would be instantaneous and profound. Imagine thousands upon thousands of people wanting refurbished housing who could hire local carpenters, roofers and painters and then imagine the increase in grand list value which would help smooth out the disproportionate property taxation in town and maybe even provide more tax dollars for education. Then imagine the other positive effects upon the service economy that could employ even more people.

posted by: WithMaliceTowardNone on June 12, 2015  12:54pm

Mayor Toni Harp’s omission in her speech at the rally of the “very good news” and the “undeniably positive step” of Yale’s commitment to hire 500 New Haven workers through New Haven Works was no accident. 

Most of those at the rally probably had no idea that Yale had committed to those hires just the day before. It wasn’t mentioned in any of the speeches by Scott Marks, Bob Provo, Laura Kennington, or anyone else.  Rather, the rally’s sole message, it seems, was the continuing demonization of Yale.

They led the rally to the construction site of Yale’s two new residential colleges on Prospect and Sachem. There Provo and Kennington, the leaders of Locals 34 and 35, pointed fingers at Yale for not doing enough despite the fact that all those working on that site are _union_ workers and apprentices.  And by contract with Yale, 25% of those workers are from New Haven.

None of this was mentioned yesterday. 

What’s going on here?  The continued demonization of Yale plays into the run-of-the-mill anti-intellectualism all too common in American culture.  It also obfuscates a murkier set of political aims that only those leaders can explain, aims that would also demonize hard working men and women who have those jobs. Jobs that were made possible by Yale.  Jobs that were contracted according to progressive labor standards.  Union jobs. 

None of this was made clear yesterday, either.

If the leadership of Locals 34 and 35 are seriously committed to the well-being of New Haven, why don’t they insist that all their union members move back into New Haven?  Yale even has a home buyer program that encourages their employees to do so.  Wouldn’t that increase the number of people employed by Yale in the city of New Haven? 

In the meantime, I would ask them to tell the whole truth about what Yale does and has committed to doing.  And stop demonizing an institution that is a manifest good for the people of New Haven and Connecticut.

posted by: Fairhavener on June 12, 2015  12:57pm

I want locals 34 and 35 to only represent New Haveners, how about it? Suburban members no need apply, you can form your own unions and apply for your own jobs. Oh, and I want it NOW, not in two years!

(Not as fun is it?)

I’m a union supporter at heart, but tired of seeing the shortsightedness of these hammy locals.

posted by: LookOut on June 12, 2015  1:39pm

Has our society really degraded to the point where the request is “Give” me a job?  Come on, develop a skill so there is a demand for your services and you won’t have to worry.  If one job falls through, there’ll be 3 more around the corner. 

Or looking at this another way: Do these folks realize how silly they look demanding jobs 48 hours after Yale committed to providing exactly that?

posted by: BenBerkowitz on June 12, 2015  1:52pm

So many thoughts…

Protesting one’s way into job opportunities seems like a last resort.  Isn’t this the same organization that just stopped City Hall from hiring more people?

Does New Haven Rising spend their time working with the job seekers to prepare their resumes and then highlight them publicly to local employers?  Also, where is the website that shows me the list of eligible candidates?

As a local employer the climate that New Haven Rising has created makes me very concerned about the potential for job growth in New Haven.  The organizers appear disingenuous, vicious and unwilling to work constructively.  Also, all of the leaders of the organization need to move in NHV if they are going to lobby for local jobs.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on June 12, 2015  2:08pm

@robn,

Excellent point.  What efforts have NHR put into lobbying their own members move into town?

posted by: ProUnion on June 12, 2015  2:28pm

@TheMadcap Voluntown, CT to New Haven, CT is a 1 hour and 20 minute drive, that’s 83 miles, if driven. Compile that with transferring from bus to bus and it becomes a much longer drive. Lakeville, CT to New Haven is 1 hour and 20 minutes, 64 miles. However, you’re missing the point. If someone where truly serious about looking for and obtaining a job they would find a means of transportation to get there. People need to STOP demanding that companies give them jobs and they need to go out there and EARN them. No company has any obligation to “hand out” jobs.

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on June 12, 2015  4:37pm

Ben, the solution to increase employment isn’t giving out city jobs…  Those 20 patronage positions with the city could probably fund 60-70 non-government jobs.

posted by: wendy1 on June 12, 2015  4:40pm

Too little, too late.  Two or three weak unions and a bunch of weak-kneed citizens including the mayor who act afraid of Yale Corp ain’t gonna do the trick.  We should be demonstrating in large numbers YEAR-ROUND.  For years (3) I told people the Job Pipeline was more like the Job Pipedream.  The only thing Yale was pipelining was cash.  New Haven Works (same deal) looked to me like New Haven Jerks.  I like Mary (Sunnybrook Farms) Reynolds but really telling me 200 people applied for 1 janitor job is not encouraging.

posted by: BlueDogMom on June 12, 2015  5:56pm

What is your skills set to apply for work at a university or medical center with a high school diploma?  What kind of job are you expecting? How many positions do you think Yale or Yale medical have with such minimal qualifications?  The best qualified must earn every job available—do you want to be admitted to a medical center that has a different policy? This protest and the misguided movement behind it is a failure of NHPS and of New Haven families.  If you want more from life, teach your kids that you have to study hard, work hard and sometimes move to where you can find the jobs.  Life does not owe you anything.  Did everyone catch the not so subtle threat—no jobs mean civil unrest and riots?  Thanks Mr. Marks, plant that seed into the minds of young people just let out from the school year.  That will help New Haven tremendously.

posted by: khagearty on June 13, 2015  7:25am

Many good points made here, especially by Jdossgollin and Berkowitz. The city’s idea to push businesses to hire local is in contrast to their practice to not give any incentive to workers who choose to remain local. I think we should really consider the NHPS side (how well are we preparing our residents) and the affordability (the gentrifying concern). When people of color earn more they are often buying homes outside of New Haven.

posted by: JohnW on June 13, 2015  3:28pm

A couple of points worth keeping in mind.
First, this kind of stuff often precedes the beginning of negotiations for a new 34 or 35 contract.  You will also see a new flurry of GESO demonstrations.  The Yale unions’ playbook has always been to flex their muscles by trying to embarrass and poke Yale in public as much as possible in advance of and during negotiations.  So, I assume the contract negotiations must be coming up.  Problem is that trying to convince residents that Yale is some kind of guilty liability instead of an asset for creating a more sustainable city economic base strikes me as running the risk of not fully capitalizing on New Haven’s new hip vibe to attract young and creative people that will generate new businesses and create new jobs. Scaring folks away would be tragic since the opportunities in front of us now may not come again for a long time.  Second, despite Yale’s large endowment, its operating budget continues to be under pressure due to flat or even falling federal grant income and if you have not noticed, there is a growing backlash against tuition hikes at elite colleges and universities.  So, it is by no means some bottomless pit.  Finally, the Union’s contracts themselves are a deterrent to job growth.  If I hire a starting level lab technician, I must pay 50 cents for benefits for every dollar of salary.  That compares to benefits levels of 20-30 cents on the dollar at many other medical centers.  So, while this is good for current employees, it is certainly a barrier for new hires if grant dollars are shrinking.  So, there is always another side to consider if you want to solve problems rather than just make noise to advance your negotiating position.

posted by: iamhe on June 15, 2015  6:35am

Yale should offer a free 2 semester course in New Haven “All About Yale in New Haven”,  which requires a High School diploma and a New Haven Residency. Upon completion of that course the person becomes eligible to be hired by Yale…..  (not a job guarantee) no Yale training, no Yale job. There the New Haven Students can be studied and evaluated for optimal Job Placement.

posted by: DrDuBoisWalton on June 15, 2015  10:21am

Dear Razzie,
Currently 50% of Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of the City of New Haven’s workforce are residents of the City of New Haven.  Constantly interested in increasing the numbers.  We are a signatory with New Haven Works and have an active contract with them that helps meet our permanent and temporary employment needs.  Current permanent employee count is 78 New Haven residents out of 155 jobs. Count us as “on board” in sharing the concern about local employment and as a partner in solving the crisis.  Karen DuBois-Walton

posted by: Razzie on June 15, 2015  5:01pm

DrDuoisWalton—When compared to the local resident empowerment record of its sister agencies, Elm City Communities leads the pack. Your resident workforce of 78 out of 155 permanent employees is a god start. Yet we should not overlook the economic impact of the ECC bid system for provision of goods and supplies, and for construction and non-construction projects. I am not aware that the emphasis you place on hiring NH residents for your workforce carries over into the much more impactful area of purchasing goods, supplies and services.

We both agree that more can—and should—be done to meet the issue of economic empowerment for local residents. In my view, everyone benefits from a vibrant local economy that empowers local citizens.

Yet not to be overlooked is the central part of my earlier post—that the unions’ narrow focus on Yale exclusively is very short-sighted. It misses the sources of local economic empowerment that truly drive the local and small business economy of its union membership. The local economic empowerment record of your sister agencies—the New Haven BoE, Hamden Boe, West Haven BoE (and there related agencies)—deserves as much scrutiny and condemnation as that of Yale.

posted by: iamhe on June 16, 2015  8:13am

so you have a critical negative attitude towards Yale, do you think Yale would be wise in giving you a job?

The other day I was in Wall Mart, and a service personnel did his job but expressed a strong generalized contempt towards me, and I a stranger to him. I tried to be friendly… his contempt was a clear attitude he brought to the job. I understand that many people have had bad experiences in our society, and have legitimate complaints and have developed negative attitudes and probably very understandable too. but when they come to work and to deal with the public, they need to treat every one with respect, kindness and a helpful attitude.. there should not be even a hint of contempt coming out of them. It was a mistake for Wall Mart to hire that person.. That person did not have enough character and awareness to understand and turn off what he was doing….  I hope Yale never hires anyone, no matter where they are from with such a deep seated contempt for others as I saw there in Wall Mart….. I thought about bringing this to the attention of Wall Mart and chose not to… not wanting to cause any harm to this individual and knowing it is just a matter of time until he self destructs in his job.

How does Yale keep people like that out of their employ?

posted by: grammie on June 16, 2015  10:14am

I am currently in the lay off pool with three months left because of budget cuts. I think WE should get priority over New Haven residents for jobs. TAKE CARE OF THE PEOPLE IN THE LAY OFF POOL LOCAL 34!

posted by: RichardWillie on June 19, 2015  2:48pm

You’ve got to be kidding me.  With the amount that Yale contributes to New Haven people should have been gathering to thank Yale. This city would be a disaster area without Yale.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when I actually seen complaints that New Haven Promise should allow students to study outside of Connecticut. 

Do people really think that pressuring Yale to divert funds away from research, and financial aid and creating low skill jobs reserved for New Haven residents is really going to improve things? 

How many jobs have Laurie Kennington and Scott Marks ever created?  These leaders are talking people down the road to serfdom.

Instead of wasting energy protesting against the most positive force in New Haven the protesters should use it to acquire skills that would make them employable. 

Yale is helping tremendously.  People have to help themselves as well.