GESO members vote to strike

Members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization voted Wednesday to allow the group’s leaders to call strikes, indicating that they would likely join Yale’s recognized unions in a weeklong walkout beginning March 3.

GESO members voted 482-141, with three voided ballots, to authorize a teaching and research assistant strike, GESO Chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said. A strike will most likely take place during the entire week of March 3, and occur in conjunction with likely strikes by Yale’s two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, GESO members said.

During a strike, TAs would not enter any Yale buildings, GESO leaders said. This means that they would not teach sections, attend classes or conduct research in libraries or other University facilities. Seth said that it would be each individual graduate student’s decision whether to participate.

Provost Susan Hockfield said she was discouraged by GESO’s plans to hold a strike.

“It’s disappointing and disturbing that any group would attempt to disrupt the education of our students to advance its own ends,” she said.

Hockfield said that, in the event of a strike, the University hopes professors and students will go to classes as usual.

GESO has been trying to organize graduate teaching and research assistants for over a decade but has not requested a formal election. University administrators have long opposed unionization and maintained that graduate students are not employees.

GESO is closely aligned with locals 34 and 35, which represent nearly 4,000 clerical, technical, maintenance and service workers.

Despite the large margin supporting a strike, some GESO members expressed reservations about the way GESO’s Coordinating Committee has handled plans for a possible strike. Some of these graduate students created an alternative resolution, calling for more membership-wide votes on all major decisions. The approved resolution authorizes the Coordinating Committee to make all decisions.

The alternative resolution was intended to give GESO members more control of the direction of the strike, said Angus Fletcher GRD ’03, a spokesman for the proposal.

GESO members initially voted by hand on the two proposals, but had to vote again because the first vote was too close. In the second vote, GESO members chose the Coordinating Committee’s resolution over the alternate resolution 283 to 246, with 10 abstentions.

Fletcher said he does not think many GESO members know what will happen in the event of a strike because they have not been included in the Coordinating Committee’s planning. Fletcher said supporters of the alternative plan will try to find alternate ways for GESO members to support locals 34 and 35 without participating in the GESO strike.

Fletcher said he believed that GESO members voted for the alternative proposal because there is “a real feeling of disaffection with the way things are currently being orchestrated.”

“The basic point that we made was that we didn’t want to go into a strike in which our goals weren’t being clearly articulated,” Fletcher said.

Graduate students expressed different views on the possibility of striking.

Alison Bruey GRD ’05 said she is “willing and ready” to strike in support of GESO’s mission.

“I think that without teachers and researchers, you don’t have a university,” Bruey said.

Some graduate students maintained that they did not support GESO’s tactics and would continue their work in the event of a strike.

Stacey Thompson GRD ’05 said she will continue to hold sections during the week of the strike and would “cross picket lines with both middle fingers held high in the air.” She said she believes that there is no need for a graduate student union at Yale.

GESO members said last September that its members would strike if the University did not hold discussions with them. No actions have been held to date.

Graduate students sign in at the start of a GESO meeting Wednesday night at Center Church on the Green. GESO members voted to authorize their leaders to call a strike in March.
Kate Polin
Graduate students sign in at the start of a GESO meeting Wednesday night at Center Church on the Green. GESO members voted to authorize their leaders to call a strike in March.

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