Our Wins and Our Struggles
April, 2019 rally at Yale to make Yale pay. | Photo by Ken Suzuki

NEW HAVEN – In the last nine years the list of wins would take up this entire article.  This year Unite Here Local 34 celebrated ratification of our 9th contract with Yale University.  This contract instituted historic language that added Layoff Protection, Remote Work Protection, Subcontracting Limits, and a New Organizing Process.  Our raises will include a cost of living increase to make sure our pay is more than just keeping up with the rising costs of our capitalist lives.

While fighting for our contract we fought alongside our brothers and sisters in New Haven to push for Yale University to agree to contribute more to the city.  The activism involved with the wins I have seen reaches back years.  We have knocked on doors in New Haven with hundreds of volunteers from the workplace and on the street.  We had discussions with people in groups and one-on-one about how Yale’s tax free status forces taxpayers to pay a higher share while the University accumulates billions of dollars.  Some of those discussions happened at work, some at people’s doorsteps.

Yale University has pledged over $50 million to New Haven yet they save $157 million in taxes each year.  As long as we agree Yale has not done enough and can keep pressing we will be sure the University pays their fair share to be here instead of forcing the burden on workers.

2017 rally at Yale University | Photo by Ken Suzuki

We won this historic contribution while making sure that Alders in the neighborhood and Representatives in Hartford side with working people.  We aim for a system whereby working people control the offices that consider the laws that govern Yale’s tax status.

Our New Haven Alders and State Representatives also decide on policies that distribute the money the state takes in.  For us to win this contribution only to have it then go out to the corporate groups and tax exempt giants that profit on workers’ backs would not be a win at all.  Our comrades know we have to have power in our elected offices and volunteering on the street.  The organizing work is hard work.  We take time to do this rather than some of the things we do with our families.  Balancing work, play, rest, and fun is difficult.

The work and why I stayed

There is a realization that occurred to me as I stacked up all the wins we’ve had in the last 9 years.  If we don’t find people we like to spend time with we cannot keep fighting capitalism.  The wins come only with many people doing the hardest thing anyone can do, engaging people’s action.  VOTE, TALK, READ.  So we meet regularly with our club to talk about our goals and what we are doing to achieve them.  Sometimes our goals are simple, “How many people did you talk to about Yale’s Tax Break?”  Other times it is more difficult, “Who is coming to the march this Wednesday?”

2014 New Haven Rising rally for jobs | Photo by Jill Marks

In my life, I was conditioned early to not trust people, especially someone I didn’t grow up with in my white suburb.  How can you count on someone to be somewhere when life happens?  Once I promised to show up and found other people who would, I found people I could trust, especially when life happens.  Trust to talk to their legislators in Washington and get arrested with them for immigration reform.  Trust to go to the state capitol in Hartford, CT to lobby for regulation on Hospitals so they couldn’t double bill people when they had something done in an office just owned by a hospital.  Trust to listen when doing that one more thing that may be too hard.  That trust built up and grew into love.  Love is not just an emotion, after all, it is action.  I love the people who show up for me and the people I care about.  I will show up for them.

Picking a side

I had no idea the Communist Party was active in the USA.  I had no idea what a union was or did.  I had no idea what people could do to band together to make sure corporations could not take advantage of workers.  It turns out that Communists have been organized to make sure American workers are not taken advantage of by their capitalist bosses for over 100 years.

It took a team of Communists to show me what democratic Communism was and how American it is.  One of them was Art Perlo.  Art Perlo was the definition of a comrade.  He was along for the journey to communism as a part of a collective.  While I started my journey to be a communist he joined me to explore how I came to the party.  I had already seen Art Perlo at all the collective actions I could make it to.  I saw Art Perlo at many more actions that I couldn’t make it to when I was looking through pictures on social media or reading his articles in People’s World.

The example of scholarship and connection that Art Perlo struck is awesome.  He is a pillar of the community in my life and I will never forget him.  I am devoted to my club and the vision the club has for the future of workers.  Thank you Art Perlo for showing me that vision and encouraging me to contribute because we are loved as people.  I will keep standing up for myself and the people I love against the interests of profit.

In Memory of Art Perlo, Friend and Comrade


Art Greiser
Art Greiser

Learning more and fighting for workers every day.