Bargaining resumes with public discord

A day after extending contracts for another month, union and University negotiators returned to the bargaining table Tuesday to discuss non-economic issues that remain unresolved after seven months of bargaining.

Union leaders said they were frustrated by what they considered the University’s refusal to agree to any union plans. Yale President Richard Levin declined to comment on negotiations.

The discussions were held amid growing public conflict between the two sides.

On Monday, union leaders released a negotiations bulletin accusing Levin of walking away from partnership after disagreements at the bargaining table over a joint labor-management committee.

That same day, however, union leaders surprised Yale officials when they declined to cancel the contracts, making them effective through at least Oct. 31. Union leaders have indicated in the past that they were planning a three-day walkout in October, which would be prohibited while the contracts are in effect.

Under the contracts, workers can hold sympathy strikes if other unions with the same employer go on strike.

Unionized dietary workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital, who are negotiating their own contracts with the hospital, authorized leaders to call a strike during a vote last month. Ray Milici, a hospital worker on the union’s negotiating team, said the dietary workers will hold a three-day walkout in October if negotiations do not progress. Milici said other unions would hold their own strikes if the dietary workers went on strike because the groups are aligned.

But Local 34 President Laura Smith declined to comment on whether the union would hold a sympathy strike or other job actions in October, saying she would not comment on hypothetical situations.

“We have a number of options available to us,” Smith said. “We remain hopeful that we can in fact achieve a good contract and hopefully peacefully, but if and when it becomes necessary for us to take any other actions, we’ll make all of our strategic decisions at that time.”

Union leaders are planning to hold a day of civil disobedience Sept. 25. Union supporters plan to block traffic on a street near campus and be arrested. The unions have circulated a packet of information to workers and graduate students on civil disobedience. The packet gives instructions for what to do when arrested and who should consider not being arrested.

At the negotiations yesterday, the two sides discussed Local 34 job growth. They will not negotiate again until Thursday afternoon. The contracts for 4,000 Yale workers expired in January but have been renewed on a month-by-month basis since then. Workers have not received annual pay raises because new contracts have not been settled.

Locals 34 and 35 represent nearly 4,000 clerical, technical, service, dining hall and maintenance workers.

The two sides have also not resolved economic issues. University leaders have said the unions’ proposals for wages and pensions are too costly for the University realistically to implement, while union leaders called the University’s economic packages “insulting.”

Smith said the two sides also needed to address other non-economic issues including workman’s compensation.

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