More than 60 hospital employees and community members assembled Tuesday in a rally organized by Yale-New Haven Hospital officials in support of the construction of the proposed $430 million cancer center, which failed to meet the deadline to break ground by the end of September.

Several hospital workers and community members who attended said they are concerned that the delay in construction of the center is adversely affecting cancer patients’ welfare and depriving the city of a potential boost to economic development. Some attendees said they think local interest groups concerned with employee unionization at Yale-New Haven are set on blocking the center’s construction. But labor representatives and other community members said that although they support the center’s construction, they first want to ensure that the center grants its employees the right to unionize and that it is environmentally safe.

The rally took place at noon outside the hospital’s Grace Building. Though most of the attendees were hospital employees, local labor, clergy and community leaders also spoke at the event.

New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Tony Rescigno, who spoke at the rally, said the project is too valuable to the New Haven economy to delay or cancel.

“Anywhere else in Connecticut, people would be falling all over themselves for this project,” he said.

Christian Jensen ’06, a member of the informal group Students for a Yale Cancer Center, said he thinks one of the principal causes of the delay has been the involvement of the Service Employees International Union in the dispute over employee unionization.

“The SEIU has used its influence in the Mayor’s Office and in the Board of Aldermen to prevent the necessary construction approvals from being granted,” he said.

But SEIU spokesman William Meyerson said the organization is not aiming to cancel the plans for the center. Meyerson said the SEIU believes that the other factors involved, including area housing, parking and employee unionization, should be addressed.

“The workers’ having a right to a secret-ballot election without management interference and intimidation is just one of those issues,” he said.

Meyerson said members of the Board of Aldermen have voiced additional concerns regarding the hospital’s zoning proposal and effects on the local environment. Ward 1 Alderwoman Rebecca Livengood ’07 said she is in favor of the proposed center as long as the center is built in an environmentally friendly manner and a neutrality agreement is reached governing Yale-New Haven workers’ rights to unionize.

Josh Eidelson ’06, a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee and Community Organized for Responsible Development, also said he is looking forward to the center’s construction, as long as the hospital focuses on making the center accessible to the community.

Yale-New Haven announced on Sept. 7 that the state’s Office of Health approved its application for the construction of the center, but the project has not yet received a go-ahead from city officials.

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