At strike’s end, a sigh of relief



Looking forward to the prospects of eating in dining halls and resuming work, Yale students and union members expressed relief Thursday that the three-week strike of locals 34 and 35 was at an end.

Most students said the strike was, at worst, a minor inconvenience. But they said they were eagerly awaiting a campus free of pickets lines and early morning rallies. Meanwhile, union members said they were excited to return to work with stable contracts for the first time in two years. The strike, which began Aug. 27, had disrupted many aspects of Yale life, moving classes to alternate locations and creating political tensions.

“My alarm clock for the past couple of weeks was ‘We want a contract,'” Michael Rucker ’07 said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what Yale is like with employees.”

In interviews Thursday, freshmen expressed more frustration with the strike than upperclassmen.

“I don’t like that we can’t eat in our dining hall,” Sean Herman ’07 said. “I feel like if we did get to eat in our residential colleges we would know each other a little better.”

Early Thursday, there were signs that union members were feeling optimistic that the strike would soon end. In front of the Hall of Graduate Studies, picketers danced to the Electric Slide and the Hokey-Pokey; “Dancing in the Streets” was sung at the Yale Law School.

But even as rumors of an impending settlement spread among union members Thursday, many were still hesitant to believe a new contract was forthcoming.

“Yale can dangle that carrot in your face and then take it away,” Local 34 member Cheryl Leach said. “Everything is up for grabs.”

The strike also had other more unpredictable effects on campus life. Picket lines prompted producers for the television show “JEOPARDY!” to indefinitely postpone the taping of their college championship show at the University. Yale College Council President Elliott Mogul ’05 said he tried to contact the show’s producers when he heard the strike had potentially ended, but they had already left for the day.

“I have a feeling that [‘JEOPARDY!’] will probably be coming,” Mogul said. “But I can’t say for sure.”

Mogul said he would possibly know the show’s status this morning.

Some students said they would miss the rebate check Yale provided each week to repay students for the meal plan while dining halls were closed. Students said they enjoyed eating out at restaurants and felt the check was more than enough to cover food.

“I sort of wish [the strike] lasted for a month longer,” Erin Lin ’07 said. “I like the idea of having my own money and saving up to buy new shoes.”

Rucker said the picket lines and the acts of civil disobedience were annoying, especially on move-in day.

“It’s a stressful day,” Rucker said. “And that extra stress is unneeded.”

During the strike, some professors and teaching assistants who were reluctant to cross picket lines held classes off campus, in locations such as York Square Cinema, Naples Pizza and Restaurant, and City Hall.

“I kind of resent that teachers are taking a stand by moving class off campus,” Jeff Kessler ’05 said.

Evelyn Malave ’05, a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, said the strike’s inconvenience was overshadowed by its importance in getting contracts for locals 34 and 35.

“It’s not that much of a disruption compared to what [workers are] going through to better their lives,” Malave said.

The UOC raised money for a strike fund this year, and was active in many labor rallies and pickets. Malave estimated that she spent at least five hours a day last week working with the unions.

Mike Verdi, a Local 35 member who works in the Branford and Saybrook dining halls, said he did not think it would be awkward for striking and nonstriking workers to resume work Monday.

“It’s happened before,” Verdi said. “Over the course of a month or so, a couple of weeks, it will blow over.”

But Local 35 member William Scott, another employee at the Branford and Saybrook dining halls, said returning to work could be tense.

“Those who didn’t strike; they should have,” Scott said. “They get what we get too. That’s not fair.”

UOC member Zachary Schwartz-Weinstein ’04 said he hoped the new contract would mark a turning point in Yale’s divisive labor history.

“I hope I’m not going to have to come back here in six years and get arrested,” Schwartz-Weinstein said. “Because I will.”

— Staff Reporters Paula Brady, Amy Kaplan and Jennifer Sabin contributed to this story

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