A committee of the New Haven Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a resolution Monday night that recomends stripping Yale-New Haven Hospital security officers of their power to make arrests. The resolution, authored by Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04, follows the arrests in September of union leafletters who were working on the grounds of the hospital.
Speaker after speaker testified to an abuse of power on the part of the security force, alleging intimidation and inconsistent behavior in light of years of leafletting without incident. While 15 hospital workers, union leaders and assorted outsiders — not to mention a handful of very supportive aldermen — spoke in favor of the resolution, only Yale-New Haven representative Ann Hogan spoke for the hospital and its long-established constabulary right to arrest.
“We need to make a very strong stand that such an abridgement of free speech is not acceptable,” said Ward 9 Alderman John Halle, a Yale University music professor. “The enforcement of a public regulation was under the authority of a private entity — it’s outrageous.”
“Until the hospital shows that it can deal with union organizing, it’s going to be hard to trust them with police powers,” said Susan Voigt, Democratic Town Committee chairwoman.
All eight workers arrested told stories of exceptional treatment, reserving the majority of the blame for hospital administrators who they say ordered the detainment and criminal charges of the leafletters.
Rose Anna DeFilippis, a seventh-year medical student who works at the hospital, implicated hospital administrators as causal agents in her arrest.
“The policemen were obviously embarrassed for what they had to do,” she said, implying that the policemen were only following orders. “For the crime of communicating with my coworkers, I now face one year in prison.”
Nancy Ryan, a 25-year employee of the hospital, spoke of a frequently mentioned hesitation on the part of the hospital police force.
“The [police officer] literally begged us to leave,” she said. “When I come to work, I don’t check my rights at the door. I was determined to stay.”
Hogan defended the hospital, saying Yale-New Haven only allows solicitations on its grounds by hospital workers. She said all other solicitors are and always have been subject to arrest.
“We need to operate with consistently enforced policy,” she said.
Halle later asked Hogan to return to the stand, at which point the aldermen peppered her with questions. Halle asked if Girl Scout cookie vendors would have received the same treatment and Ward 28 Alderman Brian Jenkins berated Hogan over what he alleged was the hospital’s thinly-veiled thwarting of union organization.
Hogan refused to comment.
Two amendments were added to the resolution: one urging the hospital to drop all charges and the other asking Yale President Richard Levin to urge the hospital to do just that.
The resolution will go before the full Board of Aldermen next Monday. If passed, it would stand as a recommendation to the mayor and the Board of Police Commissioners, who would collectively make the final legal decision.