Roger Wolfson’s grandparents met on a picket line. And they are buried together, just outside the “workman’s circle” section of their cemetery in New Jersey. Roger’s family was involved for decades in the struggle waged by unions to establish reasonable working conditions and fair pay for workers in the early decades of the last century.
So, Roger starts from a sympathetic position when hearing of the efforts to establish organized representation for workers at the Yale-New Haven Hospital.
But there is more to the story. Roger Wolfson’s father, Dr. Steven Wolfson, has been on the staff of this hospital for nearly 35 years. He’s watched generations of his patients pass through its doors, and receive kind, skilled, and thorough care. And Dr. Wolfson has been around long enough to work with two generations of Yale-New Haven employees, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters. There is a real sense of community and continuity there.
For special reasons, Roger Wolfson’s father has been able to observe the working of this place firsthand. Dr. Wolfson’s wife (and Roger’s mother) Susan Wolfson had cancer. And for five years she was in and out of Yale-New Haven. Roger and his father have gone with her to the Gyn-Oncology floor, the Medical and Surgical Intensive Care units, the Cardiology step down floor, walked with her while she was transported to and from testing areas, radiology, and the operating room.
And everywhere they went, they met kind people with real sympathy, and real expertise. They met people working very hard, very efficiently, but finding the time to smile and express their caring. Susan was transported by wheelchair and stretcher over all the vast acreage of this medical center for her diagnostic tests and treatment. She’s sat with others in a tiny, cramped clinic while a group of wonderful nurses dispensed chemotherapy with a comfort and love that denies space and time.
But now there is a confrontation centered on the New Haven Board of Aldermen. The plan for the new Cancer Center requires a number of permits. There are those who would not authorize the construction of the Cancer Center unless concessions are made to the union that hopes to organize workers at the hospital.
That the new Cancer Center will help patients is without doubt. Its construction will result in the hiring of approximately 350 workers, its operation, about 400. The building permit will result in a payment to the city of $4,200,000. Payments “in lieu of taxes” are estimated to yield up to $3,500,000 per year to the city. This construction, in short, will help everyone.
How have we arrived at such a broken negotiation process? How can it be acceptable policy for this Center to be held hostage when it is so obviously in the interests of all parties-the workers, the union, the hospital and the city?
Roger Wolfson can hear his grandparents saying that it takes hard work, and hard men and women, to form a union. But, brothers and sisters, some tactics are beyond the pale. Fight for your union, but while you do so, build the Cancer Center.