Labor rights are human rights

To the Editor:

I was greatly disturbed after reading Meghan Clyne’s column (“Yale, workers benefit from union-free community,” 9/6) in Friday’s op-ed page. Clyne’s article is misinformed, abusive and symbolic of the very need for unions. Clyne claims to provide sound and reasonable arguments for the elimination of unions and the consequent improvement in the lives of the Yale community but egregiously fails to do so. Instead, she provides us with an elitist response to the contract negotiations process.

Clyne fails to understand, or rather ignores the fact that the right to organize is protected by federal law and recognized as a basic human right. Workers of any level, whether they are janitors or graduate students, have the right of free association and to demand collective bargaining from their employers.

Clyne makes the paternalistic claim that Yale workers should simply shut up and be thankful for a job and being kept off welfare, as if the benefits and salary increases they have gained were simply loving gifts from Mother Yale, rather than improvements that workers fought hard for through their union representation.

Attitudes by employers such as those voiced by Clyne demonstrate the real need for unions in university settings and other industries.

The people who work in Yale’s libraries, dining halls, offices and physical plant are not just bodies, but people with families and responsibilities. Unions are a way for these people to help insure that their employer gives them the respect they deserve and pays them justly. Workers should not be paid horribly low wages simply because their job is mopping floors. They have the right to demand livable wages from their employer and respect for the work that they do.

Candace McKinley ’03

September 9, 2002



To the Editor:

In response to the Yale Daily News’ recent anti-union op-ed (“Disingenuous dealings ruin ‘new tone,’” 9/6), I am writing to provide three simple reasons Yale undergraduates need to be aware, informed and supportive of the struggles of the Yale unions:

First, workers are a vital and essential part of this institution. Without them, our school would not be able to function (as will become extremely apparent if there is a strike.) All of us interact with union members every day, and some undergrads are members of Local 35. As an institution that can certainly afford it, it is in Yale’s best interests to respect and treat its work force well.

Second, the letter recently sent out by University President Richard Levin does not provide all the facts. While he claimed Yale was willing to come to the table for 68 days, their negotiators were only willing to talk about certain issues. Yale has refused to negotiate on such important issues as graduate students and hospital workers. Important issues like wages, pensions, and subcontracting have not been resolved. Yale has even refused to discuss some recommendations made by Restructuring Associates, Inc., the group originally brought in by Levin to smooth the bargaining process.

Third, it is true that Yale offers an array of benefits to its workers, but this should not be taken as an indication of its generosity. Yale has been consistently and viciously anti-union for years, and any benefits the workers now have were fought for and won by those workers. Workers at Yale know this. They understand the implications of a strike, but they also understand that they need decent wages, health care, housing and pensions, and Yale isn’t exactly handing these out on a silver platter. This isn’t union quibbling. These are people’s lives and futures.

Leela Yellesetty ’05

September 6, 2002

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