University prepares for March strike

A week from today, students will wake up to find residential college dining halls closed, bathrooms uncleaned and rings of union workers picketing outside classrooms, libraries and other Yale buildings.

Union leaders announced last Thursday that members of Yale’s two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, would strike alongside members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization and unionized workers at the Yale-New Haven Hospital. The strike will begin at 5 a.m. on March 3 and continue until the evening of March 7. Yale President Richard Levin said University administrators are drafting a letter they will send to members of the Yale community on Tuesday or Wednesday with specific details about the University’s contingency plan for the strike week.

During the strike, workers will not enter any Yale buildings and will form picket lines around many locations on Yale campus. GESO leaders have said that during the first week of March, GESO members will not attend classes, hold sections or conduct research in Yale facilities.

University administrators said most campus facilities — including the Payne Whitney Gymnasium and libraries — will operate on normal schedules during the week of the strike.

“The dining halls close but otherwise we continue to maintain the colleges and classrooms,” Levin said.

In a Friday e-mail to students, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said the Commons dining hall will remain open. Levin said the residential college dining halls will also serve continental breakfast.

During the last strike, Yale gave students $105 per week to spend at local establishments or to use for reduced rate meals at Commons.

The University will not hire any temporary workers and managers will staff dining halls with any workers who do not strike, Yale Deputy Provost Charles Long said.

While some professors have told students they will move classes off campus so students do not have to cross picket lines, other professors said they would hold classes in their regular locations.

History professor Jonathan Spence e-mailed students in his “History of Modern China” class to say that he would hold lectures at the regular time and location.

The strike will represent the eighth job action in the last 11 rounds of negotiations. During the last strike in the spring semester of1996, each union staged separate, consecutive walkouts for one month each.

Local 34 President Laura Smith said union members will be picketing at work sites in addition to holding daily rallies and demonstrations.

“I think our focus primarily is certainly to be visible in demonstrating our numbers and showing our commitment by not going to work,” Smith said.

During the fall term of the 1995-1996 academic year, some GESO members held a grade strike, withholding grades from the registrar at the end of the semester.

While 482 of the 626 GESO members present at last Wednesday’s membership meeting voted to strike, University leaders have said these GESO members constitute only a small percentage of the entire graduate student body, which numbers approximately 2,300 students.

“Many graduate students will continue what they’re doing,” Long said. “I don’t expect classes will be very disrupted.”

In 1996, union representatives asked students who crossed picket lines to sign cards that described how difficult it was. Some students stopped before entering their classrooms to participate in the picketing as an expression of solidarity with the workers.

While the University respects students’ desire to avoid crossing picket lines, Yale will not be responsible for changing classroom locations, Long said.

“It’s hard to move them, because it just disrupts students’ schedules,” Long said.

Long said Yale will not cancel classes or lower any academic expectations.

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