Students face decisions as strike nears



When Yale’s two largest unions and graduate students go on strike next week, many students will face a choice: cross picket lines or miss class.

Many striking workers and teachers will form picket lines around buildings on central campus. To avoid making students choose between their classes and support for the strikers, some professors have made arrangements to move their classes off campus during the strike. But many classes will be held in their normal locations.

During the strike, members of locals 34 and 35, which represent nearly 4,000 of Yale’s clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers, will not perform administrative tasks, clean bathrooms, serve food in dining halls or do any work in Yale buildings. Graduate Employees and Students Organization members who strike will not teach sections, attend their classes, conduct research or use any University facilities.

It is unclear how many union members and graduate students will participate in the strike.

In an e-mail to students Friday, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead told students they had the right to cross picket lines. Brodhead said in the e-mail that administrators would encourage professors to ensure the “continuity of instruction,” and said students would be expected to meet their academic responsibilities.

Some large classes, including Jonathan Spence’s “History of Modern China” and Ian Shapiro and Gregory Huber’s “Crime and Punishment” will not move, the professors said.

Lauren Suchman ’05 said her “Formation of Modern American Culture” professor Matthew Jacobson told the class Tuesday that he will move the class off campus next week to avoid crossing picket lines. She said Jacobson also wants to break the class up into groups that will research different labor-related issues.

“He said we were going to spend the next two classes talking about it,” she said.

Alyssa Rosenberg ’06 said she will not cross picket lines and has offered to help her professors find alternate locations where they can hold their lectures and screenings.

But some students said they did not plan to take a side on the issue and would follow their schedules as normal.

Caroline Vazquez ’05 said she believes undergraduates should continue to go to class next week and stay out of the dispute between Yale and the unions.

“I feel like it’s ridiculous for the undergrads to get too involved because it’s not our issue,” she said.

The March strike will represent the eighth job action by union members in the last 11 rounds of contract talks. Yale and its unions have been negotiating new contracts for members of locals 34 and 35 since last February but talks have stalled in recent months.

Rosenberg said she began reading about labor relations on campus and talking to workers and graduate students long before the strike announcement. She said she first learned about labor issues at Yale from her mother, who attended Yale in the 1970s and made sandwiches for striking union members as an undergraduate.

“I decided to get myself educated as things on campus escalated,” she said.

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