Tim Tai, Photography Editor

The University ensures that at least 20 percent of workers on its construction projects are New Haven residents through various measures, including the implementation of telematics for construction equipment to track and monitor workforce demographics and residency status.

 In 2019, Yale and its two recognized unions of campus workers, Local 35 and Local 34, signed an agreement in which the University committed itself to hiring more New Haveners and creating a variety of jobs training programs. In the aftermath of the deal, the unions additionally celebrated Yale’s internal commitment to ensure that general contractors on its construction projects hire a certain proportion of residents. 

When asked whether the University had reached this benchmark on current construction projects — several of which were detailed in an October email sent by University Provost Scott Strobel — both University President Peter Salovey and interim Vice President for Communications Karen Peart referred the News to J. Mike Bellamy, who became vice president for facilities and campus development on Oct 3. 

Bellamy told the News that the University’s standard contract agreement states that construction managers should afford preference to New Haven residents. He added that 20 percent of new hires should come from the city in the event that a subcontractor increases its workforce for a project. Bellamy did not respond to multiple requests for comment on whether the News had regularly met this goal. 

“When you’re in a certain area … you want to make sure that you know, that that local community gets benefit from that you know, that’s just part of being a good neighbor, good citizen,” Bellamy said. “And so we were very clear in contracts. You know, the … certain percentages of diverse vendors or local vendors of whatever, we typically put that in our contract.”

The University’s contractors, which manage campus projects, are responsible for hiring their own construction workers. Currently, contractors on major Yale construction projects include the Turner Construction Company and Gilbane Company. 

Neither contractor responded to multiple requests for comment on their direct and subcontractor-based hiring practices for New Haven residents, as well as a request to provide the percentage of New Haven hires.

Yale’s 2019 agreement stemmed from intense scrutiny from the two unions, New Haven Rising and other community members who expressed dissatisfaction with earlier unmet hiring goals for campus and construction jobs. Four years earlier, the University told the New Haven Independent that its goal was to hire 25 percent New Haven residents to work on the then-ongoing construction of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges; after the completion of the projects, the News reported that only about 12 percent of workers came from the Elm City.

According to sites like KV construction LLC, “Yale’s large construction projects should generate more opportunities for New Haven’s low-income neighborhoods, and hitting local hiring goals for construction projects is vital to transforming Yale’s development into opportunities for the city,” Abby Feldman, an organizer with the social justice advocacy group New Haven Rising, told the News.

Ernest Pagan, Council Representative for the Carpenters Local 326 union, said that a 25 percent New Havener hiring goal was included in the union’s project labor agreement with the Turner Construction Company for the current 100 College St. construction project, which will create a new home for the The Faculty of Arts and Science’s Department of Psychology, the School of Medicine’s Department of Neuroscience and the Wu Tsai Institute.

“We are able to give a lot of young men and women in New Haven Career opportunities with this agreement in place,” Pagan wrote to the News. “It would be catastrophic if we didn’t have that partnership going forward.”

According to administrators, Yale constantly communicates with its contractors to ensure they follow through with the University’s hiring goals.

“We are committed to working with contractors and companies that hire diversely and hire from the New Haven community,” Salovey wrote in an email to the News. “We are in regular contact with contractors and companies to make sure they understand this commitment.”

Following its failure to meet the 2015 hiring goal during the construction of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges, the University cited the need for a variety of workers with specialized construction skills as a source of challenge. Yale, in the 2019 agreement, promised to work with Local 35 to create a licensed mechanical and electrical trade training program for residents to address the skills gap. In November 2021, Yale reported that eleven people were apprentices in the training program and set to graduate from it in 2024.

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Additionally, Yale works extensively with New Haven Works, a local organization that connects residents with employment opportunities, to find new hires within the city. The organization has created a “Construction Pipeline” initiative to provide residents with jobs under contractors. It is also engaged in a partnership agreement to prioritize hiring residents from the Dwight and Hill neighborhoods to work on the renovation of 101 College Street., which the University is involved in. 

Still, Yale’s continued silence on whether it has truly made progress toward meeting the 20 percent goal has frustrated some activists. Feldman emphasized that the University must follow through with its promises and goals to truly build an equitable relationship with the city, especially after New Haven has historically suffered from decades of “segregated development” worsened by Yale’s exemption from paying property taxes.

“Yale is our city’s largest employer and it has a role to play in helping New Haven overcome this unjust history,” Feldman wrote. “While the University has recently made small steps in the right direction, it could be doing much more and should act with more urgency.  Instead, we are still stuck in a situation where the University has failed on major hiring commitments, and the city is still subsidizing the University through a massive tax break.”

Yale’s hiring goal for its privately-managed projects attempts to echo principles of the project labor agreements built into construction projects funded by the city, which require that New Haven residents comprise at least 25 percent of the workforce. 

New Haven Works was founded in 2013.

Correction, Dec. 11: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the 20 percent hiring goal was written into the agreement between the University and unions itself, but it was in fact an internal commitment that the University strengthened with conditions of the agreement. 

Megan Vaz is the former city desk editor. She previously covered Yale-New Haven relations and Yale unions, additionally serving as an audience desk staffer.
William Porayouw covered Woodbridge Hall for the News and previously reported on international strategy at Yale. Originally from Redlands, California, he is an economics and global affairs major in Davenport College.