Yale graduate student union Local 33, which made national headlines last spring for its political activism, will soon have another voice in the city’s legislature.
Charles Decker GRD ’18, a leader of Local 33, is running uncontested for the Ward 9 alder position and in January will join Local 33 President Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18 on the 30-person board. On a campaign flyer announcing his candidacy, Decker said he decided to run for office after President Donald Trump’s victory last November.
“Last November’s election results left me reeling — I spent a lot of time thinking about what to do next,” Decker wrote. “I believe the best way to resist Trump’s agenda is to build from the ground up.”
Decker told the News that he is excited to use the skills he has honed in Local 33 to advocate for racial equity and health care on behalf of his constituents.
Decker has served on the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals for the last three years. He wrote on the flier that his experience with the BZA taught him how daunting the process of getting building plans approved can be for residents. He pledged to facilitate this process and to make sure ward upkeep — like fixing sidewalks and organizing garbage pickup — is taken care of.
Decker did not respond to an email from the News on Wednesday afternoon seeking comment on what his presence on the Board will mean for Local 33.
Lukas Moe GRD ’19, another prominent member of the graduate student union who has served as Ward 7’s alder since Alberta Witherspoon stepped down in July, wrote to the News in a Thursday afternoon email that he will not run for another term. Moe said Witherspoon and the Ward 7 Democratic co-chair selected him to serve out the remainder of Witherspoon’s term after she became ill and stepped down.
“I joined the Ward Committee during Alberta’s term and really enjoyed working with her on outreach to our neighbors, helping to get more people engaged in politics and local issues,” Moe said.
Moe said he is working with Abby Roth, who is running against Robert Kiley for the Ward 7 aldership, on projects like traffic calming.
Greenberg, Decker and Moe are three of the eight graduate students who staged and participated in Local 33’s provocative hunger strike last spring. The union launched the strike to protest the University’s slowness in opening contract negotiations with the union.
Decker will be joining the Board at an important time. City spokesman Laurence Grotheer said Mayor Toni Harp has several projects in store for her next term and that she will look to the Board to help make them reality. Chief among these is a plan to create a Family Justice Center, a center that would offer services to locals affected by domestic abuse.
“The mayor is working with prosecutors, the police department and social service providers to create it,” Grotheer said of the center, which is in its early stages.
He added that the center would serve as a “clearinghouse” for everything the city offers to those affected by domestic abuse, from legal services to substance abuse counseling to psychological and emotional support.
Grotheer said the mayor and alders, as always, will be kept busy making sure the city’s finances are in order. This year may pose the biggest challenge yet, as payments from the state to the city that account for more than 10 percent of the city’s annual budget are being withheld with no end date in sight as the state legislature struggles to finalize a budget.
Thirty members serve on the Board of Alders.
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