During the fourth day of a weeklong strike dominated by scattered picketing, inclement weather and relatively routine campus activities, union members focused Thursday on undergraduate involvement and graduate student issues.
The day’s strike activities included “Education in the Streets,” a program designed to get Yale undergraduates involved in the strike, and a speech by Princeton religion professor Cornel West. Though several inches of snow fell on campus and dining halls remained closed, most campus functions continued undisrupted, University officials said.
The strike will conclude today with a rally on Wall Street. Union leaders said they will decide over spring break whether to “renew” the strike when students return.
University spokesman Tom Conroy said Yale officials were pleased that research and educational activities had continued close to normally this week.
Addressing several hundred students on College Street Thursday morning, West said the strike was setting history, with more diverse types of workers striking together than ever before. The strike includes locals 34 and 35, which represent clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers. Members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization are also striking, along with unionized dietary workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
“We’re here in the snow in the name of Lux Et Veritas,” West told union supporters. “You have a right to decency, you have a right to dignity.”
After the rally, he tied the current union struggle with other social movements, and expressed disappointment in some black and female Yale professors.
“The ironic thing is without these kind of movements, you wouldn’t have black or women professors who are now on the other side,” said West, who taught at Yale in the 1980s. “A lot of brothers, they’ve been incorporated. They’ve gone mainstream.”
During the morning’s “Education in the Streets,” sponsored by the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, undergraduates sat in mock classrooms set up along College Street to learn about labor issues on campus. Union organizers referred to the stage as “the principal’s office” and told supporters to “go to your next period” as they moved between events. UOC members estimated that 500 students were in attendance.
Later in the day, approximately 100 professional school members rallied in Beinecke plaza. Brooke Conti ’97 GRD ’06 said TAs have earned a reputation for being ineffective because Yale does not have enough full-time faculty. She encouraged Yale to invest in teacher training for its TAs.
“I really think that a disservice is being done to undergraduates,” Conti said.
Students from the forestry school constructed a 10-foot high figure clad in a graduation gown which they took to both the rallies. Another student carried a large chicken featuring a slogan telling Yale to “eggotiate.”
Though most spectators remained calm at the rallies, several motorists honked their horns in annoyance at the protesters crossing Elm Street. One passing driver opened his window to yell at union members.
“You’re all terrorists,” he said. “You’re all unpatriotic slobs.”
Union members did not respond to the outburst.
Negotiations for contracts for locals 34 and 35 will resume next week. The two sides have been bargaining since last February but have yet to reach settlements on issues including wages, benefits and other non-economic issues.
— Staff Reporters Jessamyn Blau and Shinzong Lee contributed to this report.