Fair Share wants improved YNHH benefits proposal

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Despite a community benefits proposal issued by Yale-New Haven Hospital last month to accompany its plans for a $430 million cancer center, student members of Community Organized for Responsible Development said yesterday that the hospital has still not sufficiently responded to local residents and hospital employees and urged University President Richard Levin to get involved.

The Fair Share Coalition — an umbrella organization for 16 student groups and a member group of CORD — held an open meeting yesterday afternoon after sending a letter urging Levin to serve as a mediator in the dispute between CORD and the hospital. The Fair Share Coalition has recently shifted its focus from lobbying to increase the taxes Yale pays to New Haven to supporting a better relationship between the hospital and the community.

“As students we believe that our president and our University need to take a stance on the issue,” Tasha Eccles ’07, a Fair Share Coalition member, said.

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said Levin’s past interventions have helped to change the relationship between Yale and New Haven, and Levin should recognize the hospital also needs to improve its relationship with the city.

“The hospital and Yale are intimately tied together, and [Levin] could, if he so chose, help facilitate a resolution to the ongoing contentiousness in the neighborhood and move this cancer center to a speedy resolution,” Healey said.

CORD organizer the Rev. Scott Marks said Yale-New Haven’s current benefits proposal is not sufficient given the large scale of the construction project and the needs of the community.

“The hospital needs to recognize that it needs to fundamentally change its relationship with the community,” Marks said. “All they have provided so far is a very shallow benefits agreement.”

But hospital spokesman Vin Petrini said Yale-New Haven already gives so much to the community that a benefits agreement would be additive.

“The cancer center itself should be considered a community benefit,” he said. “Every year we spend more than $7 million on community benefits, and $72 million a year for free, charity and under-reimbursed care. We are solely committed to providing community service.”

Students in the Undergraduate Organizing Committee — a member group of CORD — said Yale-New Haven’s proposal lacks a long-term commitment to the community and does not address employment and unionization problems at the hospital.

UOC member Josh Eidelson ’07 said some provisions in the hospital’s benefits proposal, which pledges to fund new housing development and a number of work and educational opportunities for New Haven residents, only span the next three years instead of committing to long-term change.

“[The current proposal] does not address all of the concerns CORD has raised,” he said. “The fact that the hospital put together a community benefits proposal at all shows we’ve made progress, but we won’t stop until the hospital sits down to negotiate the rest of the issues fully.”

Eidelson said CORD is best equipped to represent the community because it is open to all Hill residents, as well as concerned students and New Haven residents, whereas groups the hospital consulted in drawing up its benefits proposal — such as the Hill Development Corporation — are not as inclusive or representative.

But Petrini said CORD’s main objective is to promote SEIU interests and unionization at the hospital. Petrini said worker unionization should be considered a separate issue from community benefits, and the hospital is open to a secret ballot vote for unionization run according to National Labor Relations Board rules.

There are no meetings planned between the hospital and CORD or the union for the near future.

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