Rally Seeks Local Hiring For Living-Wage Jobs

Aliyya Swaby PhotoMore than 400 people gathered at a rally to hear new data about how New Haveners are missing out on New Haven’s living-wage jobs—and to call for a change.

The crowd Tuesday night spilled out the door of the Elk’s Lodge meeting room on Webster Street to support the launch of a campaign by the activist group New Haven Rising for “Access to Good Jobs” Tuesday night. Organizers plan to petition the Chamber of Commerce and the city’s leading employers to hire more New Haveners through existing city placement programs.

Organizers first presented results from a DataHaven survey showing that only 47,000 out of 83,000 jobs in New Haven provide living wages. New Haveners have only 9,000 of those living wage jobs and a little less than a fourth of total jobs. Residents of low-income neighborhoods such as Dixwell, Fair Haven, and Newhallville have only 2,000 of total living-wage jobs.

Organizer Reverend Scott Marks (pictured) addressed the audience as he would a congregation, keeping the crowd’s energy high and focused. The first step, he said, is engaging the community. Next, building consensus. The third step is to keep focusing the group until “we as a city fix the problem.”

He presented a by-the-numbers break-down of New Haven Rising’s summer organizing activity.

As he called out the statistics, organizers behind the podium (pictured at the top of the story) held up colorful signs in large type.

Twenty-three people gave more than 100 presentations about these figures in public and private venues in the past 71 days. More than 2,000 people attended these presentations, and a total of 4,181 signed the local-hiring petition.

“We’re not talking about what we’re going to do. We’re talking about what we’re already doing,” Marks said.

Fair Haven Pentecostal Pastor Hector Luis Otero (pictured)  addressed the crowd in Spanish, while New Haven Rising organizer Kenneth Reveiz translated in English. Otero said he receives parents at the church who have to work two jobs in order to survive, which he called"unacceptable.”

“We the Latino community are also showing up because we need jobs,” Otero declared.

Representatives from the Board of Alders, city administration, and state Senate attended the rally. Reveiz thanked them for their attendance and asked them for “leadership and courage in the midst of crisis.”

Next New Haven Rising plans to send 20 letters to the top 20 employers in New Haven, sharing the stories of those who attended the summer’s presentations and asking for policy change, Reveiz said.

After the meeting, organizer Seth Poole clarified that letters will be directed through the Chamber of Commerce as an umbrella organization. “We want to put the ball in their court,” he said. New Haveners should have higher priority for jobs in their city, he said.

The petition called for “employers to collaborate with New Haven’s workforce training and placement programs to hire more New Haven residents.”

A main program is New Haven Works, a city-based job-preparation and referral created by New Haven Rising-affiliated activists, alders, the Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, and Yale.

Varney (left) and Paige (right)Tammy Varney and Ashley Paige said despite personal struggles with joblessness, they “have hope” the campaign will help improve access to jobs.

Varney works with many homeless New Haven residents through Tammy’s House of Helping Hands. “They’re working, but not enough to pay a deposit” on a home, she said. She said her son applied to a job at a rehabilitation center and the manager rejected him because he was “living in Newhallville.” People hiring have negative assumptions of residents of certain neighborhoods, she said.

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posted by: HewNaven on September 10, 2014  9:24am

Nhr is missing a big point. Too many New Haveners are unqualified or unskilled so they cant compete for livable wage jobs and too many that ARE qualified simply move away after they land a livable wage job. They dont reinvest in their neighborhood because the incentive lies elsewhere.

posted by: RHeerema on September 10, 2014  9:44am

I wish I could have been there!  Was there any discussion about jobs for youth as well as adults?  The unemployment rate for Connecticut workers ages 16 to 24 stood at 17.1 percent in 2012. (By comparison, the unemployment rate was 7.4 percent for those ages 25-54 and 6.4 percent among those ages 55 and older, according to CT Voices for Children.) Youth unemployment in Connecticut is more than twice the statewide rate, and the unemployment rate among black and Hispanic teens double that of white teens.

Why does youth unemployment matter? Years of research proves the benefits of teen employment: including higher future earnings, less crime, and fewer teen pregnancies. Teens with jobs are more likely to graduate from high school and secure future employment.

Jobs for Youth. Jobs for All.

posted by: robn on September 10, 2014  10:12am


I’ve always been curious about how many New Havener’s land Yale jobs or city Fire/Police jobs and then bail out to the suburbs but I wouldn’t expect to see that data. The unions would probably portrayed the existence of such a data set as an inflammatory attack.

posted by: Noteworthy on September 10, 2014  12:13pm

Pressure the employers all you want, but they aren’t going to be bullied. They will hire the person with the education, skill set and job experience that meets their needs. There may be some jobs for which they are willing to train somebody but not as many as those with at least an undergraduate degree and a real high school diploma and not an GED.

posted by: HewNaven on September 10, 2014  12:53pm


Perhaps a simple way to figure that out would be to look at how many ‘livable-wage jobs’ meet the following criteria:

“How many positions are held by those BORN in New Haven but currently RESIDING outside of New Haven.”

My guess is that’s a big, ugly number that NHR and others are not willing to mention because it soundly defeats the argument that good jobs = good neighborhoods. Good jobs are only part of the equation. Creating incentives for residents to love and care about their surroundings is really the goal for most of us. Unfortunately, that sentiment is not as easily captured by soundbites or placards.

posted by: LookOut on September 10, 2014  1:04pm

Robn and NewHaven;  You are both spot on.  The problem isn’t lack of opportunities.  The problem is that the city of New Haven looks at every resident and business as an asset from which that need to squeeze every last penny rather than as an asset to leverage to grow the city. 

The result is that once businesses (think those who start in ‘incubator’ systems) or people reach the point where they have the wherewithal to move, they most often do. 

We can spend tax $$ to create 50 jobs programs if we wish.  But, until we change the view the the City of New Haven is not friendly to businesses and/or families (fill in the blank for your favorite example), this dynamic will continue to repeat itself.

posted by: anonymous on September 10, 2014  1:12pm

I agree with RHeerema - there needs to be a special focus on jobs for youth, probably before anything else. 

Also, Robn and HN have a point that as soon as people find a decent job, they often move out of the neighborhoods that organizers care about.  If we don’t fix that too, the underemployment rate in these neighborhoods is going to remain at 50% (or whatever it actually is).

posted by: NewHaven06511 on September 10, 2014  3:24pm

nother figure: 100%, percentage of current & recent past NewHaven Central Labor Council presidents who choose to live in suburbs

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 10, 2014  3:55pm

How come no one talks about,Outsourcing OF America jobs the direct result of free trade agreements like NAFTA.look at Call Center Outsourcing,Technology Outsourcing.All of these play a role for the high uemployment.As far as bail out to the suburbs.What is the difference if I retire and take my money and move out of the state.Also who is stoping you from take the test for city or state jobs?

posted by: robn on September 10, 2014 11:12am


I’ve always been curious about how many New Havener’s land Yale jobs or city Fire/Police jobs and then bail out to the suburbs but I wouldn’t expect to see that data. The unions would probably portrayed the existence of such a data set as an inflammatory attack.

You can get this data.Who says you can not.

posted by: FacChec on September 10, 2014  5:46pm

While it is impressive to rally four hundred people to demand living wage jobs for New Haven residents, it is disappointing to see alders and state representatives in attendance cheering the group on while they themselves do little or nothing to advance these matters in their respective annual budgets. New Haven receives more than 60M from the state of CT. for uses they alone determine. More than 66% of city jobs go to employees who live outside the city. The city and the BOE spend more than 70M in outside contract services, the BOA does not even seek annual accountable to whom this money is being spent with and how many of the contractors employ people who live in New Haven.

A poor record record of accomplishment for the aldermanic crew sitting in the audience cheering the crowd onward.

The only item of material worth to come out of this meeting is a petition, which according to Seth Poole:

The petition called for “employers to collaborate with New Haven’s workforce training and placement programs to hire more New Haven residents.”

A main program is New Haven Works, a city-based job-preparation and referral created by New Haven Rising-affiliated activists, alders, the Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, and Yale. Why would a petition be necessary if according to New Haven jobs pipeline they were successful in creating 323 jobs for New Heavener’s in its first year?

See that story here:


Do you smell something cooking in the woodshed?

posted by: win win on September 10, 2014  9:31pm

This was one of the most focused, powerful demonstrations I’ve ever attended. Everyone I spoke with was either active with NHR or an ally or had seen this presentation (I caught it at a youth group community conversation downtown). Powerful data, but more powerful was the collective spirit to do something about it.

I’m fed up with naysayers -if you want to see change then get involved instead of sitting around criticizing. How do you think people made change in the past? Social movements of ORGANIZED people willing to make sacrifice and commitment over the long term - backed by strong organized labor.

We have the talent in New Haven. It’s not a skill gap or lack of education or lack of “job readiness” (these are all excuses) it’s structural problems on employer’s end that keep residents locked out of these jobs and it hurts everyone because it leads to crime, violence, lost tax money, drains on our systems, blight. So let’s keep the pressure where it belongs: on politicians and companies that have the power to change this situation.

posted by: Brutus2011 on September 11, 2014  11:31am

I agree that it is not a lack of “job-readiness” of those in the community to compete for living wage jobs.

I know because I am educated and experienced yet there seems to be a reluctance for some to manage a minority male. And before the howls begin-this is only my opinion.

But what I really want to comment upon is what is the current definition of a living wage job? Is it 40K/year? 60K? 80K? 100K?

I think, for a family of 3, 80K is likely to be the lower threshold for a livable wage today. This of course assumes one wage earner per family. And the way food prices are increasing, I doubt that estimation will be enough even next year.

I am not sure of the answer other than I always thought that employing people was a central rationale for business in our society but I guess that notion is old-fashioned. 

What happens when ordinary folks won’t be able to afford the goods and services of business—then what?

posted by: robn on September 11, 2014  12:07pm

Just to reinforce a point already made, If New Haven Rising is affiliated with New Haven Works, a labor union sponsored program that has been crowing about its success placing locals in jobs, then what’s the problem?

posted by: Noteworthy on September 11, 2014  3:36pm

A few notes:

1. FacChec - Right on the money. The word is hypocrite. Why can’t the alders and their union bosses affect the change they demand on the contracts and expenditures they control? It’s easier to point the finger at others.

2. WeR1Nhv - City residents are ready for all these jobs you say. It’s “structural” roadblocks, not job readiness. What are they?

3. Brutus2011 - Employing people is never the goal of business. Profits are. Employing people are an expense against profits. As a business grows, in order to accomplish growth and greater profits, a business hires people but only as many as productively produce a marketable product at a growing profit margin. The marketplace determines compensation not a family’s liveable wage. Because as you pointed out, the cost of living is so high in large part because of taxes, a family with a single wage earner is really strapped unless they make big bucks. I am curious about why you think or what experience you have had that leads yous you to the conclusion that business is reluctant to hire a black male?

posted by: Brutus2011 on September 11, 2014  8:26pm

to Noteworthy:

In regards to the business goal thing…I once took a course entitled, “Money, Banking and the US Economy” in undergrad. I remember that the Prof explained that business goals are primarily revenue oriented but given that business is dependent upon the populace of its market for revenue then such customers are to be valued for the long haul if only for their role as consumers. Otherwise, no customers, no revenue.

As far as getting into why I believe minority males are not as desirable for hiring as compared to say, minority females…with all due respect to you, I don’t think this is the forum to discuss my experiences and views on race relations.

posted by: robn on September 11, 2014  8:42pm


Did you really think/write that out loud?