Unions, University resume negotiations



Despite earlier threats of another strike after spring break, Yale workers and graduate students will not strike this week. Union and Yale negotiators will continue bargaining today, and a proposal is expected from Yale negotiators, union leaders said.

Members of Yale’s two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, returned to work two weeks ago following a five-day walkout the week before spring break. Union and University negotiators bargained during the first week of break but made little progress, union leaders said. Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said she hoped the low numbers of workers who struck would encourage union leaders to settle contracts quickly. But union leaders said progress depends on top Yale officials getting involved in negotiations and said they would leave open the possibility of another strike.

During the strike, about two-thirds of Local 34, which represents about 2,800 clerical and technical workers, and 98 percent of the 1,100 members of Local 35, Yale’s service and maintenance union, participated in the walkout, union leaders said. Yale officials said approximately half of Local 34 and 95 percent of Local 35 members participated in the strike. Some members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization also struck, as did unionized workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Negotiators for Yale and locals 34 and 35 have held three bargaining sessions since the strike. On the first day of bargaining, union leaders suggested that New Haven Mayor John DeStefano — who helped settle the last contract talks between the two sides in 1996 — become involved in negotiations. Yale negotiators rejected the proposal, saying the two sides could settle contracts themselves.

Later that week, Yale negotiators recommended the two sides take a week off from daily bargaining so they could “take a deep breath” and evaluate their positions, Klasky said.

Union members held a contract rally outside Yale President Richard Levin’s office March 14 to urge key decision-makers like Levin to come to the bargaining table.

Klasky said she hoped union leaders would recognize that their members’ unenthusiastic response to the strike would pressure them to come back to the table and negotiate seriously.

“I hope the union leadership has taken stock of how many of their members came to work [during the strike] because we have a good offer on the table,” she said.

Local 34 President Laura Smith said she was disappointed that Yale negotiators did not change their proposals during bargaining.

“The University didn’t come in with anything actually different,” Smith said. She said she hopes Yale leaders used the past week off from negotiations to reassess their proposals.

Smith said union leaders believed that DeStefano could intervene in negotiations because he helped arbitrate a settlement between the parties during the last round of negotiations in 1996. She said University leaders rejected the proposal.

Klasky said Yale officials hope the two sides can negotiate new contracts between themselves.

DeStefano said the unions suggested city involvement without contacting him first. He said if the University had agreed to city mediation, he might have considered having someone from the city get involved.

DeStefano said it was unlikely he would have gotten personally involved, even if the sides had agreed on his participation.

The University and unions have been negotiating contracts for members of locals 34 and 35 since last February. Negotiators for both sides hope to schedule more bargaining dates at today’s main-table session.

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