AFL-CIO President John Sweeney addressed nearly 1,000 union supporters outside Phelps Gate Wednesday morning as workers and graduate students continued the third day of a five-day strike. Union leaders said that the strike will end Friday and will not resume after spring break, as had previously been considered.
Union spokesman Bill Meyerson said union leaders plan to resume negotiations next week and have decided not to strike again after students return March 24. The Graduate Employees and Students Organization, which has been striking this week, will decide during spring break whether to continue the strike, GESO co-chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said. Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said the University continued to function normally Wednesday in spite of the walkout.
The unions will focus on GESO and undergraduates today, marking the second-to-last day of the strike with an 11 a.m. “Education in the Streets” event featuring Princeton religion professor Cornel West and American Studies professor Michael Denning. In the afternoon, GESO will hold a teach-in and professional students will rally on Wall Street.
Klasky said 49.8 percent of Local 34 — which includes about 2,800 clerical and technical workers — participated in the walkout. She said about 95 percent of the 1,100 members of Local 35 — service and maintenance workers –are striking this week.
Meyerson said he hopes the University administration will “open its eyes” when it returns to the bargaining table next week. Yale and locals 34 and 35 have been negotiating for new contracts since last February without reaching settlements on wages, benefits or noneconomic issues including training and job growth.
During his Wednesday speech, Sweeney said striking workers and graduate students are putting their bodies and reputations on the line to send a message to the most powerful university in the country.
“It is unacceptable for a university that prides itself on producing presidents to hide from the fact that it is also producing and perpetuating poverty,” Sweeney said.
Klasky said Sweeney’s accusations were unfair since Yale has used its endowment to create jobs and is able to offer wage and pension increases during the economic downturn.
Klasky said she hopes union leaders will turn their attention away from the organizing drives of GESO and hospital workers and toward contract talks for locals 34 and 35 when bargaining resumes next week.
“The whole way they’ve structured the strike — it’s obvious they’re linking all this,” she said.
Many students said their daily routines have not been disrupted by the week’s activities.
Scott Kroehle ’05 said he lives in a room in Calhoun College above a site where union members have picketed in the morning for the last three days. But he has yet to actually see a picket line outside any of the buildings he regularly enters, he said.
“I can understand the symbolism of not crossing picket lines, but it would have been more forceful if there were actual picket lines to cross,” Kroehle said.
This week’s strike is the eighth in the last 35 years. Members of the Service Employees International Union District 1199, which represents 150 dietary workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital, are also striking this week.
— Staff Reporter Will Sullivan contributed to this report.