Labor talks stumble over GESO, hospital



Despite union leaders’ efforts to raise the issue of union growth at negotiations Tuesday, Yale negotiators continued to maintain that they would not discuss the issue at the bargaining table.

The University and its two recognized unions, locals 34 and 35, have clashed over organizing drives by members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization and workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Union leaders said they want to discuss the issue because it is beneficial to the unions if their affiliated groups also unionize. But Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the University will not discuss non-mandatory subjects of bargaining at negotiations.

Yale and its unions have been negotiating new contracts since last February. Contracts expired last January and have been renewed on a monthly basis for the past year. Workers have not received annual pay raises because contracts have not been settled.

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

University officials have said the unions remain focused on GESO and the hospital workers, rather than on settling contracts.

Conroy said the union leaders’ insistence on discussing the issue Tuesday supported the University’s stance that outside organizing drives are the main obstacle in settling contracts during this round of negotiations.

“There is no indication that they’ve changed their posture at all,” he said. “Today only reinforced that.”

Conroy said Yale negotiators continue to insist that they will not discuss matters at the bargaining table that do not directly involve contracts.

“We are not going to negotiate matters that are unrelated to contracts for our employees in Locals 34 and 35,” he said.

Local 35 President Bob Proto said union negotiators wanted to discuss union growth, which labor consultant John Stepp suggested. Stepp, of the Washington D.C.-based firm Restructuring Associates Inc., worked with Yale and locals 34 and 35 last spring. He recommended the two sides come to an agreement on the organizing drives of GESO and the hospital workers. Proto said he had hoped the University would take the recommendations more seriously.

“They never try to talk it out or think it out,” Proto said. “They always put the workers in a position to fight it out.”

He said he would have liked the University to be more receptive to a discussion about union growth.

“We need our common employer to establish a fair process that will not turn the University upside down and breed further animosity,” Proto said.

The two sides have scheduled six bargaining sessions over the next two weeks. Over 1,000 union members plan to rally outside the Omni Hotel at noon today, where the two sides will be holding negotiations, to protest the lack of progress in settling contracts.

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