Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean ’71, in a Friday evening speech on Beinecke Plaza, became the third prominent national figure to speak out this week in favor of Yale’s unions.
Dean’s speech followed those by fellow presidential hopeful Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 and the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Monday and Wednesday, respectively.
In front of a crowd of nearly 1,000 striking workers and students that filled Wall Street in front of Beinecke Plaza, Dean called for the University to submit to binding arbitration and allow people to “retire with dignity.” Dean dedicated the second half of his speech to what he called a “crass commercial announcement,” soliciting support for his presidential campaign.
Dean’s speech came at the end of what John Wilhelm ’67, the president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, applauded as a successful third day of striking for Yale’s two largest unions and workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Police arrested 83 people, including Wilhelm, for blocking major intersections around Old Campus where freshmen from 10 of Yale’s 12 residential colleges were moving into their dorms, a police spokeswoman said.
Dean, who after his speech declined to comment on the specifics of Yale and union proposals, said he has supported Yale’s unions from the time he was an undergraduate. He added that Yale’s labor dispute is symptomatic of a growing gap between “those at the top and those at the bottom” in America.
“What we need in this country more than anything now is economic justice,” Dean said. “The struggle was the same [during his time at Yale] as it is now.”
Dean said trade unions play a vital role in distributing wealth in the United States and are more responsible for the country’s strength than either industry or the military.
Dean went on to critique the Bush administration, focusing on the tax cuts enacted by President George W. Bush ’68 and accusing the President of having “forgotten ordinary Americans.”
Dean concluded his speech by urging listeners to register on his Web site.
Dean said this was the first college crowd he had addressed outside of the primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Wilhelm praised Dean for returning to his alma mater, calling him the leader of a “new politics” and Bush the leader of “old politics.”
Jessica Paindiris ’05, who attended the rally with the Yale College Democrats, described herself as “definitely a Dean supporter.”
“I think Dean is exceptional for his outreach to the student population,” Paindiris said.
Union members who attended the rally differed in their predictions about how much of an effect Dean’s speech — and those by Lieberman and Jackson — would have on negotiations.
Local 34 member Eleanor Migliore, who was arrested today in the unions’ traffic-blocking act of civil disobedience, said she wondered how Dean and Lieberman’s speeches would affect the Yale administration’s position.
“I don’t know what could possibly put more pressure on Yale,” Migliore said.
Local 34 member Carmelita Morales said she thought Dean’s speech might help give Yale’s labor struggle more media attention.
“To have someone who’s a ‘Yale man’ actually support us says a lot,” Morales said.