Labor negotiators await report

With less than a week until contracts for Yale’s unions expire, University and union leaders are continuing to postpone the negotiation process as they meet with a labor-management consultant to try to soothe the historically tense relationship between Yale and its unions.

The contracts for locals 34 and 35, which represent Yale’s clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers, expire Jan. 20. Yale President Richard Levin and Local 35 President Bob Proto have said they do not expect immediate problems if the new contracts are not settled by the expiration date. In the past, the University has followed the general terms of expired contracts until new ones are settled.

While contract talks have traditionally started in early November, University and union officials decided to delay negotiations so both sides could meet with representatives from a consulting firm, Restructuring Associates, Inc.

The beginning stages of the process will come to a close tomorrow, when RAI consultant John Stepp will present his findings to the approximately 120 people from the unions and University that his firm interviewed .

Afterwards, union and University representatives will likely issue a joint statement, Stepp said.

Stepp presented his findings to a smaller group last month. That group included President Richard Levin and other administrators, and union officials including John Wilhelm ’67, president of the parent union of locals 34 and 35.

Since the December meeting, union and University leaders have been meeting with Stepp to determine the logistics of negotiations and how to structure the process this year.

“We’re moving forward,” Stepp said. “Hopefully, bargaining will commence shortly and will do so in some fairly nontraditional ways.”

The tradition Stepp referred to includes seven strikes in the last 10 negotiation periods, one of the most acrimonious union-management relationships in the nation.

Stepp said he planned to introduce new concepts in bargaining and negotiating for both sides to consider using. He added that the way the process goes will be key in determining how much he will be involved.

“I think everything is sort of conditional upon how things move forward or fail to,” Stepp said.

Levin said he thought the process had been going well but declined to comment further.

University spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said she thinks the meetings with the consultants have shown that both sides are committed to working together.

“The fact that people could talk candidly to a consultant both sides could agree to is a good way of demonstrating this collaborative process is serious,” Klasky said.

Proto and Local 34 President Laura Smith did not return repeated phone calls last week.

Stepp and colleague Anne Comfort met with representatives from locals 34 and 35, but not from the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, or Service Employees International Union District 1199, two groups also trying to form unions.

The unionization drives by GESO and 1199, which represent graduate students and workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital, respectively, is expected to be a major point of contention between Yale and the unions, who have formed an alliance with the two labor groups.

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