2,500 march for Yale’s unions

Over 2,500 workers, clergy, undergraduates and graduate students participated in the “Hope Not Fear” march Oct. 5 to support improved labor relations between Yale and its employees.

Demonstrators clad in gray shirts that said “Hope Not Fear” clutched bottles of Crystal Rock bottled water and lit candles as they gathered in Edgewood Park at 5:30 p.m., blocks away from the tercentennial festivities at the Yale Bowl. With the contracts between Yale and locals 34 and 35 set to expire this January, community leaders used the rally to remember the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and to send a message to Yale administrators.

“We’re looking for a new relationship between University administrators and all groups that want to unionize,” said Carlos Aramayo GRD ’03, who is an organizer for the Graduate Employees and Students Organization.

Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union President John Wilhelm ’67, Reverend David Marks, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and about a dozen Yale employees all delivered brief speeches before the march.

Marks’ involvement was the latest in a trend this year of greater clergy involvement and religious fervor in the unions. More than 44 churches from Fair Haven and other parts of the New Haven community were represented at the rally, Bob Proto, president of Local 35, said.

Wilhelm challenged Yale to work with the unions.

“When employees finally do get together, Yale has a — history of making the union go on strike to achieve what they want,” Wilhelm said. “I hope [University President Richard] Levin will find a way to take the hand of the union that has been extended to him.”

One cook asked Yale to get rid of Aramark, while a hospital worker claimed that her management disrespected and intimidated her.

After the speeches, participants formed a line about three-quarters of a mile long and 10 people wide. United Students At Yale organizer Abbey Hudson ’03, Proto, Local 34 President Laura Smith and Marks led the procession carrying a banner that had “Hope Not Fear” printed across the front.

Before entering the Bowl from Central Avenue, procession marshals held up fluorescent yellow signs saying “silence.” Two policemen on motorcycles led the procession while five others walked on either side of the marchers. There were no confrontations between the police and the marchers.

Members of the Yale Committee for Freedom, a conservative undergraduate organization, marched in silence to protest the union procession.

Most of the clergy at the rally were from Fair Haven, which contains four percent of locals 34 and 35’s memberships. As negotiations begin, the clergy will become more involved in the unions’ efforts to build support, Marks said.

“[The clergy] will be there,” Marks said. “You ain’t seen nothing yet. This is only the beginning.”

Comments