By a vote of 22-5-1, the Yale College Council passed a resolution early this morning repealing its previous support for a card-count neutrality agreement in the graduate student unionization debate.
The council’s decision came after five hours of debate on a resolution written by Pierson College Rep. Matthew Robinson ’03 that condemned neutrality and called for an National Labor Relations Board-sponsored election.
Robinson declined to put his name on the final resolution.
“We had a chance to take a stand on several important principles,” Robinson said. “I’m afraid we let our constituents down.”
The lengthy debate stood in stark contrast to the 45-minute discussion last year that preceded the almost unanimous approval of a bill supporting card-count neutrality agreements.
The council seemed inclined to support Robinson’s proposal for much of the night, but early in the morning it narrowly approved a series of amendments removing nearly all of the substance from Robinson’s resolution, cutting it from two pages to two paragraphs.
YCC President Vidhya Prabhakaran ’03 cast the deciding vote on this decisive amendment at about 2 a.m., breaking a 14-14 deadlock and removing the original resolution’s call for a secret-ballot election.
That vote came after the council approved by 15-13 another amendment that removed the original resolution’s opposition to a card-count neutrality agreement.
“The way [the original resolution] was worded, I really didn’t feel like it was saying anything that reflected the opinion of my constituents,” said Berkeley College Rep. Naved Sheikh ’03, who proposed the key amendment. “I commend the fact that we stayed through to do this. While my goal was that the less said the better, what we passed was adequate.”
After the amendments, the only remaining parts of the resolution were the repeal of last year’s measure and an assertion of the YCC’s neutral stance on the issue of unionization and on card-count neutrality.
“I thought [the repeal] was the most important part of the resolution,” Prabhakaran said.
With a slightly modified version of Robinson’s resolution still on the table at about midnight, Branford College Rep. Abbey Hudson ’03 — the author of last year’s pro-neutrality measure — proposed an hourlong series of amendments. Most of these proposed amendments were voted down, but the sequence culminated in the removal of the clause urging the University not to accept a neutrality agreement.
Robinson criticized the extended nature of the meeting and what he likened to a filibuster.
“The decision-making process may have been derailed because of the extended duration of the proceedings,” he said. “I saw at times what I perceived to be a conscious abuse of the rules in terms of stalling tactics.”
Although many of the audience members had left by the time the crucial decisions were made, a crowd of more than 50 non-YCC representatives, including professors, students and union supporters, attended the meeting.
The audience members included professors John Gaddis, Michael Denning and Jon Butler, Pierson College Master Harvey Goldblatt, and Anita Seth GRD ’05, the chairwoman of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization.
The debate centered on the process by which a potential graduate student union could gain recognition. The resolution on the table for much of the night favored a NLRB-sponsored secret ballot election and opposed a card-count neutrality agreement. Such an agreement between Yale and GESO would require the University to recognize GESO as a union if more than 50 percent of the prospective bargaining unit signed union cards.
Another feature of many neutrality agreements is a pact that administrators, including professors, would not speak for or against unionization. Throughout the night, this aspect of a potential agreement sparked much of the debate.
Last April the YCC passed a resolution by a vote of 17-3-1 supporting a card-count neutrality agreement with regard to graduate student unionization and the unionization effort at Yale-New Haven Hospital.