The New Haven Board of Aldermen appointed an ad-hoc committee Wednesday that will meet with University President Richard Levin and union leaders to discuss the two parties’ historically contentious relationship.
The board passed a resolution at Monday’s meeting that prescribed the action.
“If nothing else, [the committee] will serve as an avenue to bring both sides together in a constructive way that will hopefully lead to something positive,” Perez said. “I hope that they will give it a chance and work with the committee to come to an understanding.”
Ward 14 Alderwoman Robin Kroogman, who chaired the standing committee of the board that has dealt with Yale union issues thus far, will lead this committee as well. Other members of the ad-hoc committee are Elizabeth McCormack, Edward Mattison LAW ’68, Alfreda Edwards, Kevin Diaz, Arlene DePino, and Yusuf Shah, Kroogman said. Board president Jorge Perez will serve on the committee ex officio.
Perez said he chose the aldermen to serve on the committee based on three principal criteria.
“I did not want to name anyone who was associated with Yale in any way, and this disqualified many members,” Perez said, referring to the union workers, professor, and student on the board.
“[The selections] were also based on people who asked, who showed some interest,” he said. “And I wanted to have a cross-section of the city.”
Kroogman said she had not yet spoken to the committee as a whole and that no date has been set for the first meeting with either Levin or union leaders. She said she is happy to pilot the committee but warned that only through patience and a fairminded approach could the group achieve its collective goal.
“I’d like to go into this with an absolutely open mind, because if we go in there with a preconceived figure of anything, this won’t go anywhere,” she said.
“It’s certainly going to be an information session at first,” Kroogman said of her plan for the initial meetings with the opposing parties, “and then, to the best of our ability, we’ll see what kind of leeway we have to suggest anything. I look forward to any attempt that we can make, and I hope it’s not in vain.”
McCormack, who represents Ward 24 and is the board’s majority leader, was laconic in her expectations for the committee.
“I have one goal,” she said, “and that is a solution or outcome that everyone can live with.”
Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, associate vice president for Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs, reiterated the administration’s support for the committee’s mission.
“While nothing can replace negotiations that need to happen directly between the two parties, we certainly hope that separate discussions the aldermen will have with the University and with the unions will further foster a climate toward a mutually beneficial relationship,” said Morand, who has promised that Levin will chat with the committee.
Morand, a former member of the Board, also said he hoped the aldermen would come to appreciate Yale’s position on the organizing drives of GESO and SEIU local 1199. The groups are trying to organize graduate students and dietary workers at Yale-New Haven hospital.
“We observed that there are two obstacles that hold up resolution of contracts for the 4,000 men and women of locals 34 and 35,” Morand said. “And we would hope that our colleagues at the Board of Aldermen might, after further consideration, urge the leaders of the unions to overcome those obstacles.”
Mattison, author of the resolution, emphasized the focus of the committee would be the larger relationship, not just the “obstacles” of this particular round of negotiations.
“What we want to know is what happens after the strike,” he said, who labelled the current talks “frozen speech.” “I want them to pledge that they will get back on the track together when they had meetings to resolve the issue.”
With regard to the potential efficacy of the committee, Mattison spoke frankly.
“It’s got to work,” he said. “They can’t beat up on each other forever — surely they’re exhausted. It’s almost as though it’s pro forma, like it’s their religion. What kind of craziness is that?”