GESO, Local 34 await votes

Members of Local 34 and the Graduate Employees and Students Organization will announce the results of their respective votes on Yale’s current contract offer and support for graduate student unionization tonight at 8 p.m. outside Woodbridge Hall.

Local 34, which represents 2,800 clerical and technical workers, will hold a secret ballot vote on the University’s current 10-year contract offer at their 5:30 p.m. membership meeting. GESO will gauge support for a teaching and research assistant union in a secret ballot vote from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today. Workers and graduate students will then gather outside Yale President Richard Levin’s office to deliver the results tonight.

The 1,100 members of Local 35, Yale’s service and maintenance union, will also hold a membership meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m. and march over to Levin’s office at 8 p.m. to demand fair contracts, Local 35 President Bob Proto said.

University spokesman Tom Conroy said Yale’s current proposal is good and there is no reason the unions should not accept it.

Local 34 member Linda Mattice said she plans to vote against Yale’s current contract offer at tonight’s meeting. She said she has spoken to many colleagues who will do the same.

“A 10-year contract is not a compromise,” Mattice said. “The economy can change so much that no one should lock themselves into a contract for that long.”

Proto said Local 35 is not holding a vote at its meeting tonight because it is clear how members feel about Yale’s current proposals.

“We had almost 98 percent of our members walk out [during the strike],” he said.

Yale presented its latest offer for 10-year contracts at negotiations March 2, two weeks after members of locals 34 and 35, some graduate students and unionized workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital participated in a weeklong strike. Union leaders responded with a counterproposal two days later, reiterating their position on four-year contracts.

University officials have said that GESO should ask for an election arranged by the National Labor Relations Board, but union leaders have refused because they say Yale would immediately appeal the results.

Union leaders, responding to the criticism, asked former NLRB member Sarah Fox ’73 last Friday to observe tonight’s vote.

“If some questions arose or if issues were raised, I could be a source of expertise on how the board does it and what is fair,” Fox said.

After GESO leaders announced the date of the vote last Monday, some teaching and research assistants formed a group called At What Cost last week, urging graduate students to vote against GESO tonight.

Leon Rozenblit GRD ’03, chair of At What Cost’s interim steering committee, said the group has many issues with GESO that do not necessarily relate to unionization itself but to GESO’s ability to represent graduate students. He said many TAs were upset that GESO called a vote on such short notice.

GESO’s organizing drive has been a major stumbling block in this round of contract negotiations, which began last February. Union members have not received annual pay raises because contracts have not been settled.

Union spokesman Bill Meyerson said the University and the unions will meet again on Friday and will likely schedule more meetings. Conroy said the administration would like to come to a resolution regardless of the season during which it is reached.

“The University would be just as happy to settle in June, July or August as at any time,” Conroy said. “The academic calendar is only an issue if the unions choose to make it an issue.”

The two sides barely negotiated last summer, holding only 10 full-table sessions between Commencement and the beginning of this school year. Yale and union leaders have said it is difficult to predict when contracts will eventually be settled and each side has said it is up to the other to make the next move.

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