Music, jugglers, cheerleaders and about 200 undergraduates filled Beinecke Plaza during lunchtime Thursday to rally in support of Yale’s unions, demand a dialogue with the Yale administration, and “reclaim” the campus.
With a union strike set to begin next month, students showed their support for the unions outside Levin’s office while some students led cheers. The event, sponsored by the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, featured student speakers as well as opportunities for attendees to send videotaped and handwritten messages to Yale President Richard Levin. While most students went to support the unions, a small group of students showed up to protest the group, and several students said they came to learn more about the upcoming strikes.
UOC member Thomas Frampton ’06 said the event was intended to be a “fun and loud” way to send a message to the Yale administration about undergraduates’ concerns as the labor dispute continues to intensify.
“The idea with the jugglers and music is to take back our campus,” he said.
The rally took place on the same day leaders of Yale’s two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, notified the University about official plans to strike in the first week of March. The strike will be held in conjunction with a walkout by workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital and a possible strike by graduate students.
After cheerleaders in wigs led the crowd in a number of chants, student speakers spoke about their reasons for supporting Yale’s unions.
UOC member Katie Kline ’03 said she hoped Yale leaders would take note of the rally and respect students’ opinions.
“We want the whole community to have more input,” she said. “It’s time for us to retake Yale.”
Erin Scharff ’04 said she wanted the University administration to recognize the organizing drives of GESO members and hospital workers.
“It’s not a radical argument,” she said. “It’s neither ungrateful nor greedy to demand control over your working conditions.”
But not all students attended the event to support the union cause.
About 10 members of the Yale Committee for Freedom protested the event, holding signs bearing messages that called GESO “Greedy Exploitative Spoiled Opportunists” and claimed that “Strikes hold students hostage.”
Yevgeny Vilensky ’03, a member of the Committee for Freedom, said he believes the majority of undergraduates do not necessarily agree with union demands.
“We are here to show support for the administration and to show that there isn’t unanimous student support for the unions,” Vilensky said. “We think this has been just a giant power grab by the unions.”
Many students said they showed up at the demonstration to educate themselves about labor issues at Yale in the weeks before the strike.
Ashley Bowman ’06 said she came to the rally because she has not followed the labor dispute closely and wanted to learn more.
“It’s kind of weird to be here and not know what’s going on,” she said.