Over 120 Yale students, employees, and New Haven workers were arrested Saturday for an act of civil disobedience on the outskirts of the Yale-New Haven Hospital to draw attention to the jobs crisis in New Haven and call on the hospital to secure more jobs for city residents.
A crowd of over three hundred union and labor organizers convened on Cross Campus at 12 p.m., marching through West River and stopping at Howard Street. The New Haven Police Department gave a group of the protestors three warnings to clear the street before handcuffing them and writing each of them citations for $103.
“We aren’t here to be arrested…but we are willing to risk arrest,” New Haven Rising co-founder and Reverend Scott Marks said. “We are confident that Yale is taking the jobs crisis seriously.”
Police Chief Dean Esserman said New Haven Rising — a grassroots labor organization — had been warned of the strong possibility of arrest prior to the protest. New Haven Rising reached out to the police department about staging an act of civil disobedience, Esserman said. The citations were written beforehand and were distributed to protesters upon arrest. Marks called civil disobedience a “powerful tool” for achieving social justice and change.
The protest followed a closed Friday night meeting between the Yale administration and leaders of Yale’s two unions, Local 34 and 35, in which Yale — according to Marks — offered its support of the goal to hire more city residents, and pledged to address the jobs crisis.
Saturday’s rally turned the focus of New Haven Rising’s two-year-long jobs campaign on YNNH, criticizing the second largest employer in New Haven for failing to commit to hiring locals. Union leaders repeatedly declined questions about the content of the meeting with Yale.
The private meeting was coordinated after a Wednesday vote by Local 34, which according to Local 34 President Laurie Kennington aimed to prioritize “securing” 986 union jobs at the Yale School of Medicine that were believed to be at risk of being subcontracted. Union leaders voiced concern that Yale was trying to outsource these 986 union jobs at the Medical School to Yale-New Haven Hospital, whose workers are not unionized. Medical School Dean Robert Alpern denied that such relocation plans were in the works.
“[The hospital] has not agreed to meet with New Haven Rising,” Marks said at the protest. “Yale-New Haven Hospital, we want a partnership and we want to work together.”
Mayor Toni Harp and several Alders attended and spoke at the gathering on Cross Campus. Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson, who works in communications and graphic design for Locals 34 and 35, said details of the meeting would be released later next week.
Unlike previous New Haven Rising protests, like the June 12 rally on the steps of City Hall that called on both Yale and YNNH to address the jobs crisis, Saturday’s protest was directed solely at the hospital. University spokesperson Tom Conroy and Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
“[Yale is] moving in a very, very positive direction,” Marks said. “We’re focusing on the hospital.”
In August, Yale committed to hire 500 additional New Haven residents in the next two years. Alexander said some of those jobs would be for construction work on the two new residential colleges. In a letter to Harp and the Board of Alders, Vice President for the Office of New Haven and State affairs Bruce Alexander ’65 said Yale would make those hires through New Haven Works, a job pipeline program helps qualified city residents find work.
At the protest, Harp said she was excited that New Haven Rising was asking the hospital to engage with Yale and the city in solving the jobs crisis. New Haven Rising was joined in the protest by members of GESO, the unrecognized graduate student union at Yale, and Students Unite Now, an undergraduate activist organization.
Isabel Bate, an 18-year old New Haven resident who spoke to the crowd, said the jobs crisis also extends to the city’s youth. Bate described an environment of desperation among Bate’s fellow teenage friends, many of whom look forward to moving out of the city when they graduate high school.
“They can’t wait to leave this city,” Bate said. “They feel like they have nothing, like they are nothing. I think of a New Haven where young people have a chance to thrive.”
New Haven Rising was formed in 2012.