Re-examining the consequences when you cross that picket line

To the Editor:

There are some good reasons for crossing picket lines and attending classes that haven’t been moved off campus. Some students cross picket lines simply because they are ambivalent about which side to support in Yale’s historic dispute with its unions. Both sides seem to be taking reasonable positions, and, as professors Ian Ayres and Barry Nalebuff have pointed out, no independent source has analyzed the reasonableness of the two offers. For these students (and I count myself in this group), sacrificing their education simply seems too big a price to pay when neither side is clearly in the right or wrong.

There are also some bad reasons for crossing picket lines. Among these, Alissa Stollwerk ’06 makes the worst argument of all: that what Yale students do in the current situation makes no difference. Stollwerk notes that she is “used to viewing [scab workers] as traitors to the cause of the oppressed working man,” then goes on to shrug her shoulders and conclude that “not eating in the dining halls doesn’t help the unions.”

Perhaps Stollwerk should try a little thought experiment. Consider two scenarios in which a prefrosh comes to visit Yale in mid-October. In the first scenario, Yalies tell her that they (or at least many of their classmates) have been skipping classes and not eating in dining halls for the last month because doing so violates their beliefs about organized labor.ÊIn the second, Yalies note that a strike has been going on for quite some time, but say that they haven’t really noticed because life has gone as usual. Something tells me that one of the two scenarios might put a little more pressure on the administration to go to binding arbitration than the other. And which of the two becomes the reality on this campus is entirely in the hands of the student body.

Brad Lipton ’05

September 9, 2003