A Yale labor primer: the strike’s people and issues

Local 34

Represents about 2,800 clerical and technical workers, including administrative assistants, lab technicians and library workers.



Local 35

Represents about 1,100 service and maintenance workers, including dining hall workers, custodians and groundskeepers.



District 1199

Short for the Service Employees International Union District 1199, this union represents about 160 dietary workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital and is seeking to unionize about 1,800 other hospital workers. The group is aligned with locals 34 and 35, and has asked to be recognized through card-count neutrality, a process in which an employer agrees to recognize a union if enough employees sign union cards. In the past, union leaders have asked Yale to recognize the union or call on Yale-New Haven Hospital CEO Joseph Zaccagnino to do so. Yale leaders say that they do not control the hospital. The hospital files separate tax forms from the University, but Yale President Richard Levin sits on its board and appoints eight of its 28 members.



GESO

The Graduate Employees and Students Organization has been trying to form a recognized graduate student union for nearly 15 years, claiming that teaching and research assistants perform work and should be allowed to unionize. The group is closely aligned with –Êand partially funded by –locals 34 and 35. In April, graduate students narrowly voted against the group in a League of Women Voters election.



HERE

Short for the Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Union, HERE is the parent union of locals 34 and 35. The president of HERE, John Wilhelm ’67, began his career as an organizer with a New Haven union and served as business manager of Local 35. He led the 1984 campaign that formed Local 34, and has remained involved with locals 34 and 35 since taking positions in the union’s national leadership. He has attended many of bargaining sessions during this round of talks and was arrested with union demonstrators last week.



Major issues

Union and University negotiators have disagreed over wages and benefits, particularly pensions, which union leaders say are too low. Union leaders also wanted the University to recognize the organizing efforts of graduate students and Yale-New Haven Hospital workers, which University negotiators refused to discuss at the bargaining table. These two issues were seen as the major stumbling block between the two sides, but last month, union leaders dropped demands related to either organizing effort.



History

This is the ninth time Yale unions have struck since 1968, when a short-lived Local 35 strike inspired new organizing strategies among Yale workers and three decades of bitter labor relations. During this round of contract talks, bargaining began in February 2002 with the help of a consultant hired to help the two sides overcome their tempestuous relationship. The consultant left in May of that year, saying he had concluded his work. After more than a year without a settlement, workers struck for five days this March.

Comments