I grew up in New Haven in the 1950s and 1960s in the projects on Ashmun Street. At that time, the whole community stuck by each other. If my parents were busy, somebody else was keeping an eye on me. As I got older, I worked hard on the railroad for 16 years. I have spent the last 18 years as a cook at the University. I have raised four children and am now raising my grandchildren here. I’ve noticed that things have gotten harder for families. I have stepped up to run for alderman because I believe my background and experience will help move New Haven in the right direction.
In the 1990s, my partner Connie (also a dining hall worker) and I took a stand against casualization at Yale. Along with our union, we changed Yale’s practice of using community members as a disposable workforce. The hundreds of secure jobs with benefits that were created have helped to stabilize our community. That type of consistency is what parents need to raise their children. When parents are working two or three jobs to make ends meet, they can’t help with homework and other activities. In addition to time with parents, our young people also need to count on the broader community. That’s why I have taken time to mentor young people and am recruiting other residents to step up to the plate. I also support city programs such as the Open Schools Initiative and will work to expand them.
As a major employer, Yale-New Haven Hospital has been at the center of attention. While the 100 workers at the hospital who work in the kitchen like me already have a union, 1,800 other service workers have been trying to improve their basic quality of life. I have spent time talking to these workers and know firsthand the fear and intimidation they feel about standing up for their rights. Last December, when the hospital violated its agreement to let the workers have a union election free from fear, I was deeply disappointed. At this point, I believe the hospital should abide by any remedy issued by the neutral arbitrator hearing the case.
Whether it’s rights on the job, activities for young people or safety on our streets, I don’t believe any person should have to live with fear and hopelessness. The immigration system in this country is broken and I believe the federal government has to fix it. Until then, the New Haven Municipal ID Card helps all New Haven residents have access to basic services.
No matter where you live, I guarantee I share some of your basic concerns. Whether you are a working mother, an undergrad or grad student, or an elderly resident, we are all concerned about our safety and quality of life. I experience the crime and despair that we are familiar with right outside my front window. I know that impacts the Yale community. I believe we have to tear down the fence that still exists between the Yale community and the greater Dwight community. Building genuine relationships, combined with stabilizing the neighborhood through good jobs, is the way to end the cycle of crime and violence.
Bringing diverse groups of people together is not easy. My experience on the Joint Departmental Committee in the dining halls — a project where Yale workers and Yale managers and administrators come together to resolve long-standing grievances — has trained me for this difficult task. Because of my roots here, I can reach deep into the neighborhood and motivate people to get involved and find hope.
Because of my daily interactions and relationships on the Yale campus, I can bring the students and community together in a deep and meaningful way. My efforts have shown me it is possible to tackle a big issue and make real progress. I am ready to utilize my years of experience by leading the ward as alderman.
Frank Douglass Jr. is running for alderman of Ward 2 (Dwight Neighborhood) in the Democratic primary on Sept. 11.