Nearly 300 union members, community leaders and local residents came together at East Rock’s Church of the Redeemer last night to call for a new partnership between Yale and New Haven.
The meeting was officially intended to promote the “Social Contract,” a proposal by the Connecticut Center for a New Economy that calls on Yale to take on greater responsibility for city schools and the quality of jobs.
But speakers also made frequent references to the ongoing Yale-union negotiations, the organizing efforts of graduate students and hospital workers, and the candidacy of local pastor W. David Lee DIV ’93 for a seat on the Yale Corporation.
“We’re not here to complain about New Haven but to lift it up,” said the Rev. Lillian Daniel DIV ’93, the church’s pastor. “We’re not here to beat down Yale but to lift it up. Because there’s no way we’re going up if we don’t go up together.”
In her introduction for Lee, whose write-in candidacy has received financial backing from Yale’s unions, Daniel described the “crazy idea” she and other community leaders had to get a New Haven resident elected to the Corporation. Daniel said Lee’s initial reaction when she suggested he run was that anyone could do the job — the response Daniel said made Lee the appropriate candidate.
“This is why we have to have him,” Daniel said of her Divinity School classmate. “This seat is not his seat. This seat is the New Haven seat.”
Daniel added that the New Haven Lee would represent, if elected, would be one “no longer willing to gather crumbs from under the table, but one ready to pull up a chair and take a seat.”
The meeting was the sixth in a series of community gatherings sponsored by CCNE, a nonprofit advocacy group closely aligned with the Federation of Hospital and University Employees, which includes Yale’s largest recognized unions, locals 34 and 35, as well as graduate students and Yale-New Haven Hospital workers attempting to form recognized unions.
Graduate Employees and Students Organization Chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 and Willie Tart, an employee at Yale-New Haven Hospital who has been working on the hospital workers’ organizing drive for four years, each spoke about their organizing efforts. Both received standing ovations from the audience, which included many GESO members who live in the East Rock area.
Their speeches followed a Powerpoint presentation on the Social Contract, which includes four provisions calling on Yale to contribute funds to lower class sizes in New Haven public schools, allow card count neutrality for GESO and the hospital workers, increase access to jobs for area residents and expand the Yale Homebuyer Program.
The “Social Contract” was originally published as part of a report released by CCNE in February. Following its release, city leaders, Yale officials and school board administrators all criticized the report, saying Yale should not be held responsible for funding area schools.
Steven Fortes, a member of Local 34 who has worked on a joint labor-management committee with the University, told the audience that cooperation with Yale, while not always easy, is possible.
“You shouldn’t make the mistake that the University will move easily on this,” Fortes said, referring to the social contract proposal. “They don’t. But they can be moved, when they see there is something in it for them.”
The Rev. Barbara Cheney concluded the meeting by urging everyone in the audience to attend a “unity action with Yale workers” on April 24.