After days of high-profile union rallies and visits by national political figures, students will encounter picket lines outside classroom buildings this week as Yale’s unions continue their second strike this year.
Members of locals 34 and 35, who have been on strike since last Wednesday, will continue picketing as shopping period starts today. The two sides will also resume negotiations, under the mediation of New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. The strike comes after a summer in which there was little movement at the bargaining table.
During the strike, union members have not been cleaning bathrooms, working in dining halls, performing administrative duties or doing any other work in Yale buildings. In the past week, union members have picketed almost daily. Workers have also rallied with prominent national figures including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 and Howard Dean ’71.
The two sides have disputed the rate of participation in the walkout.
Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said just 36 percent of the approximately 3,000 members of Local 34 and 92 percent of Local 35’s 1,100 members did not show up for work on Monday. Local 35 President Bob Proto said 60 percent of Local 34 and 98 to 99 percent of Local 35 are participating in the strike.
Locals 34 and 35 represent Yale’s clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers.
Conroy said Yale officials are pleased that a significant number of union members are coming to work.
“The goal of the University is to operate as normally as possible and the leadership of the University is pleased by how all the people who are working at Yale are going about to meet that goal,” Conroy said.
Proto said he is disappointed that Yale leaders have forced union members to strike for better contracts.
“The workers at Yale are put in a position to struggle for any kind of improvements they want to make,” Proto said.
Many union members said it was difficult to predict how long the strike would last.
Local 35 member Jack Neville, who has worked at Yale for 29 years and participated in four strikes, said he believes the walkout could be over soon if negotiators continue to meet at the bargaining table.
“They’re talking a lot more than they did in the other years,” Neville said. “From what I’m being told, I feel we’re close.”
But Local 35 member Shirley Hall said she had heard rumors before the walkout began that workers could be on strike for up to six months.
“I’ll be out there with them,” Hall said. “But I hope we don’t have to go that long.”
Some union members said they are not participating in the job action because they do not agree with the unions’ tactics.
Local 34 member Caryll Burns said she is not on strike because she believes some of the unions’ demands are not feasible.
“I don’t think realistically retroactive pay is possible,” Burns said. “I feel at this point that Yale has made a very good offer.”
Burns said it is unfair to disrupt the lives of students who are not involved in the labor dispute and inappropriate to rally with politicians, clergymen and other figures who are not part of contract talks.
Yale and its unions have been negotiating new contracts since February 2002 but did not negotiate for much of the summer. Both sides agree that the most contentious issue in negotiations is pensions.
Since the two sides resumed bargaining Aug. 12, both sides have made concessions on some economic contract issues. Union leaders also recently withdrew their demand that the University recognize the ongoing organizing efforts of graduate students and hospital workers.
Thomas Moore ’07 said he was not sure what to expect once classes since he has not experienced life on campus without a strike.
While meals were provided for freshmen in Commons dining hall during orientation period, the University will begin allowing freshmen to receive meal plan rebates like those issued to upperclassmen. Although administrators are encouraging members of the Class of 2007 to continue eating in Commons, the students may request a rebate check on Friday to receive it the following week.
“I don’t know what it’s like to not have this around,” Moore said. “But it really hasn’t been that big of a problem for me.”
Union members will continue picketing today. Some union members will also rally outside the state courthouse tomorrow morning to support the 83 workers who were arrested in an act of civil disobedience last Friday, union leaders said.