Rally in New Haven Challenges Yale, Private Sector and City to Create Living Wage Jobs

Posted June 17, 2015

MP3 A report on a New Haven, Connecticut jobs for the unemployed rally with Mothers for Justice's Kimberly Hart, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, and resident Dominique Dickey, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus


On June 11, a large and boisterous crowd of over 500 gathered in front of City Hall in New Haven, Connecticut, for a march demanding good paying jobs for city residents. According to U.S. Census data, there are 83,000 jobs in New Haven, 47,000 of which pay a "living wage" of at least $20 an hour. But only 9,000 of those 47,000 jobs are held by New Haven residents, and only 2,000 of them by residents in the city's low-income neighborhoods. The unemployment rate for blacks and Latinos in New Haven is more than 2.5 - 3 times higher than that of white residents. Yale University, the city's largest employer, has 13,000 employees, fewer than a third of whom live in New Haven. The day before the march a top Yale official said the university would hire 500 residents over the next two years, which is apparently more than its current rate, but many marchers were skeptical if that constitutes a significant change in Yale's practices.

The city's job training program, New Haven Works, is a joint project of local government, Yale, and the city's largest labor unions. Although the agency has trained 500 New Haven residents for jobs in construction, health care, hospitality and education, very few graduates of the program have been hired by New Haven employers.

The march was organized by New Haven Rising, a group affiliated with the Connecticut Center for a New Economy and Yale's labor unions. After the rally at City Hall, one group of marchers wound their way through downtown to the construction site of Yale's two new residential colleges, on the edge of a low-income, African-American neighborhood. Another group walked to Yale New Haven Hospital, the city's other biggest employer. Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus, who was at the march recorded speeches, including one from New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and conducted interviews with some participants, including Kimberly Hart who works 10 hours a week for a city non-profit group.

KIMBERLY HART: My name is Kimberly Hart, and I'm a member of Mothers for Justice.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And you're a New Haven resident?

KIMBERLY HART: All my life, 53 years, yes.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So why are you here?

KIMBERLY HART: I'm here because I heard there are 83,000 jobs in the city of New Haven, and not nearly enough of the jobs are held by New Haven residents, and I just find that appalling. It's not fair, and you know what? I was born and raised in New Haven, I work in New Haven, and I spend my money in New Haven. If I'm born and raised in North Haven, I work in New Haven, I spend my money in North Haven. You know? Let's keep it here. So that's why I'm here.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Mayor Toni Harp expressed support for the goals of the march.

MAYOR TONI HARP: There are three things I want you to know about your rally this afternoon, and your demand for more jobs for city residents. First, I stand with you, urging local employers to make jobs available to the unemployed and the under-employed New Haven workers. And to add to their workforce as they're able, with this in mind: we've already heard New Haven Works has already identified and pre-screened over 500 trained, qualified and eager job seekers who are city residents and ready to step up, step in, and help these local employers (applause). Second, I'm in step with you as we walk the path toward this shared vision. Together we will navigate the pitfalls and obstacles we encounter on this path. We will work to re-route bus lines and address other transportation needs to connect more people with jobs (applause). We'll help those with a criminal record so they're not deprived of a level playing field (big applause). And we'll educate and train workers so employers have skilled and experienced workers. Third, we do not, and we will not, walk this path alone. New Haven is rich and very fortunate in its talented and diverse array of economic opportunities. Conscientious employers and workers – each and all of these elements will and must walk together along this path if we are to reach our goal and generate more jobs for city residents. We must act now (applause, chant, "Act now!")

We will work together, you and I, but the employers must do more – Yale University, Yale New Haven Hospital, and other large employers, including, including the City of New Haven (applause). We must respond to the jobs crisis with more than incremental solutions. Bold leadership is required from New Haven's employers if we are to solve a crisis of these proportions. And when they do – and I know they will – we will move New Haven's economy forward so that more opportunity is available for all New Haven residents. We must act now! (applause)

For more information on the New Haven rally organized by New Haven Rising, visit ctneweconomy.org.

BETWEEN THE LINES: That was Mayor Toni Harp. Dominique Dickey was leading chants during the high energy march.

DOMINIQUE DICKEY: We want our jobs to come back to the city. We want the money to come back to the city. We want equality to come back to the city, We have to keep fighting, we want to keep doing this, we want to keep the jobs flowing to our residents.

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