NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — More than 500 cars honked through the streets of New Haven on Wednesday to demand Yale University do its part in contributing to the city.
Community leaders, allies, and city and state leaders joined together for the largest caravan on record since the beginning of the pandemic Wednesday afternoon, sending a loud message from union workers and community members to Yale: respect the unions and respect the Elm City.
The caravan started at the president of Yale’s home on Hillhouse Avenue and stretched through the Elm City.
Wednesday night, community members say they want Yale to be a good neighbor and pay their fair share in taxes.
Community and city leaders who participated in the demonstration say the pandemic has only heightened the inequities and the segregation throughout the city. They say they want Yale to step up and not back when it comes to respecting their workers by not cutting jobs at Yale and keeping opportunities available for those that help keep the university running smoothly.
Rev. Scott Marks of New Haven Rising said, “It’s time to change the map. It’s time to change the map for unemployment; it’s time to change the map for violence; it’s time to change the map for child poverty. And so that’s what we mean by ‘respect us,’ especially when we are right here in your shadows.”
Beyond that, community leaders say the Yale endowment is large enough to contribute more financially to the city.
Laurie Kennington, the president of Local 34 told News 8 at the caravan Wednesday, “My son is a student at Fairhaven School on Grand Avenue and they didn’t have soap in the soap dispensers in March in the middle of a pandemic because there’s not enough money in the city budget to do simple things like that. We need Yale to step up and take care of their workers and take care of this city.”
For many, this is also a call on the university to better support the unions.
Tyisha Walker-Myers, the chief steward of Local 35, said, “Respect your workers and respect the fact that without us, there is no Yale University…If Yale paid its fair share, the schools would be fully funded. We wouldn’t have to worry about our budget as a city because we would be able to afford it. We would have a police force at the level that we need it.”
Mayor Justin Elicker brought the numbers to the forefront of the caravan: “$3.8 billion… is how much Yale University spends on its yearly operations…Meanwhile, our city is cutting over a hundred positions from our government. Our city is struggling with an economic crisis that we haven’t seen in decades.”
News 8 reached out to Yale University for comment on this caravan effort. The university responded with a statement saying they are currently in bargaining with two local unions to extend existing labor agreements and that they are not proposing pay cuts for existing employees.
They go on to say, “Yale University’s $12 million voluntary payment in FY20 to the City of New Haven was the highest from a university to a host city anywhere in the United States. It represented a 44 percent increase from the payment that was made three years earlier. In addition to the $1 million increase in voluntary payment we committed to the City’s FY21 budget, Yale spends over $700 million annually directly on New Haven. This includes compensation to New Haven residents who work at the university and many programs and initiatives that we support throughout the city.”
Read the full statement below:
Please note that Yale is currently in bargaining with Local 34 and Local 35 to extend the existing labor agreements. The unions have requested commitments to job security and the university has made wage and benefit proposals. Yale is not proposing pay cuts for existing employees. It is important to note that Yale’s wage and benefit structures far exceed the market, even among higher education peers. We anticipate achieving a fair contract with Locals 34 and 35.
Yale has paid its staff their full pay and benefits through the pandemic, including premium pay for those reporting to campus during the first two-and-a-half months. Yale has continued pay and benefits despite the fact that a significant number of union staff have not been fully deployed since mid-March, given the change in Yale’s academic, patient care, and other services caused by the pandemic. Yale has continued this commitment with the Yale community and New Haven’s interests in mind. Yale has also worked with our union partners to re-deploy staff and temporary employees to meet new and unexpected work needs.
Yale University’s $12 million voluntary payment in FY20 to the City of New Haven was the highest from a university to a host city anywhere in the United States. It represented a 44 percent increase from the payment that was made three years earlier. In addition to the $1 million increase in voluntary payment we committed to the City’s FY21 budget, Yale spends over $700 million annually directly on New Haven. This includes compensation to New Haven residents who work at the university and many programs and initiatives that we support throughout the city.
Although the pandemic has created for Yale reduced revenues and increased costs – over a $200 million negative impact to date – Yale is working with the city to get through the pandemic together and will continue to do so. Here is an overview of some of the ways we’ve been supporting New Haven during this crisis, including opening our dorms to first responders, funeral home workers, and health care professionals. We have organized local contact tracing to help track and mitigate the virus spread in New Haven and the Yale community, and we support local businesses by helping them with applications for paycheck protection funds and direct rent relief. Through our Yale Community for New Haven Fund, we have awarded approximately 80 grants to date to local New Haven organizations, including funding over $600,000 to address local food insecurity, $250,000 to the New Haven Public School District for laptops and over $100,000 in PPE resources throughout New Haven.
Regarding the endowment, it is important to note that the endowment is a collection of gifts made to the university over its lifetime, usually with restrictions on how the earnings from those invested gifts can be spent and with requirements that they support programs both today and in perpetuity. Yale’s endowment is restricted to support various aspects of the university’s core mission — from financial aid, to faculty salaries, to research and scholarship, to student activities. The endowment also supports union jobs. Last year, Yale spent $1.4 billion from the endowment, the single largest source of revenue supporting the university’s operations, and during an undergraduate’s brief four-year experience, Yale spends over 20% of the endowment. Yale plans to continue to spend substantial resources in New Haven. The only way to ensure that Yale will continue to be able to fulfill its core mission, while also continuing to support the New Haven community, is to maintain a prudent level of spending each year from our endowment, based on sound economic theory and analysis.
Like churches and some schools, Yale is a nonprofit institution and is exempt from paying property tax on its academic properties. Through Yale’s community investment program, however, Yale has become the city’s third-highest taxpayer, contributing $5 million in property taxes on our non-academic properties annually. On average, Yale annually also pays about $5 million in permitting fees. Yale builds primarily on its existing land, so the city benefits immediately not just through these permitting fees, but through increased demand for construction as well as opportunities for jobs.
In addition, Yale makes numerous other contributions to the city of New Haven. Yale commits significant resources to supporting New Haven public school students as co-founder and primary funder of New Haven Promise. Yale contributed $4 million this year to cover full tuition at any public university in Connecticut for eligible New Haven public-school students. Last year, Yale and its employees made over $3 million in charitable donations to New Haven nonprofits and the United Way Campaign, to the direct benefit of New Haven residents. Yale further contributed $1.5 million to the Yale Homebuyer Program, which offers Yale employees $30,000 to purchase homes in New Haven. Yale supports initiatives such as the New Haven Works jobs pipeline program and Market New Haven.
Yale is also New Haven’s largest employer, with nearly 14,000 faculty and staff. Through its New Haven Hiring Initiative (NHHI), Yale has hired more than 1,000 New Haven residents into full-time positions (bringing the total to 4,000). Since last July (FY20), staff, academic, and construction hires have resulted in 239 total hires, with 86 from Neighborhoods of Focus. The NHHI graduated two Gateway Learning Cohorts and will launch the 3rd cohort in August 2020.
Yale recently made a significant contribution to support the new Stetson Library in the Dixwell Avenue neighborhood. In addition, our medical school sponsors free clinics; our law school offers pro-bono legal advice, and our architecture school designs and builds homes for the economically disadvantaged. Yale students volunteer throughout the city, providing tutoring, mentoring, tax preparation, ESL classes, and food pantry services to the city’s residents. Yale’s Pathways to Science programming provides extensive STEM outreach programming to New Haven youth. August is National Black Business Month and the university has sponsored radio ads on WYBC to increase the visibility of the Black-owned businesses in Yale properties and throughout the city.