GESO members detailed claims of harassment and intimidation at an Academic Labor Board hearing this weekend, while University officials, calling it a “show trial,” refused to participate.
At the three-hour hearing, members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, which is trying to unionize graduate students, said some professors and administrators intimidated them over the last year, including during a five-day walkout last March. University officials and many of the professors named in the complaints declined to attend the hearing, which some critics said was a way for GESO to save face after losing a representation vote they organized last spring.
GESO co-chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said she was disappointed that administrators and faculty members involved in the incidents did not attend the hearing, especially since both she and ALB Chairman Fred Feinstein had sent them personal invitations.
Biophysics and biochemistry professor Nigel Grindley, who was cited in the report for allegedly intimidating a GESO organizer, said he would not attend the hearing. He said he thought the board lacked credibility because it was invited by GESO, so he considered the hearing a publicity stunt.
“In my view this is really being set up as kind of a kangaroo court that really has not standing at all,” Grindley said.
Feinstein characterized the hearing, held at GESO’s request, as more of an airing of grievances than an investigation. Feinstein, a former general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, said the board may issue a statement if all members agree but said he wished there had been more representation of opinions at the hearing.
Some professors GESO accused of harassment at the meeting said they were advised by lawyers not to attend. Biology professor Mark Mooseker said because GESO had filed a complaint against him with the NLRB, he had been advised by his attorney and Yale counsel not to attend the hearing.
The hearing occurred as part of weekend labor conference sponsored by the federation representing GESO and Yale’s largest recognized unions, locals 34 and 35.
During the hearing, graduate students cited examples of incidents that they considered to be intimidation, such as being harassed by faculty members or detained by campus police for leafleting or holding conversations in University buildings.
GESO released a compiled version of these accounts called “The [Un]usual Suspects: Yale’s Anti-union Campaign Against Graduate Employees and Researchers.” The report also focused on the role of faculty members and administrators in leading to GESO’s defeat in the representation election last spring.
GESO member Justin Hall GRD ’07, who testified about being detained by campus police for discussing unionization in the hallway of the Chemistry Department, said he felt the hearing was a good way to inform other students about instances of intimidation, particularly because of the slow pace of the NLRB in addressing complaints.
“The biggest benefit of a forum like this is you get to share your story with a larger audience,” Hall said.
During the public comment time, members from the anti-GESO group At What Cost expressed their concerns with the tactics GESO uses.
AWC president Claudia Brittenham GRD ’08 said that while she was concerned by the examples of intimidation discussed at the hearing, she had heard different versions of the same event that were not presented at the hearing.
Seth said she was glad that AWC members spoke at the hearing because it was important to hear a variety of opinions.
Brittenham said she thought GESO, in an effort to explain their loss in the representation vote last spring, was “pouncing on” any possible examples of intimidation, particularly in the sciences.
“I’m really inclined to believe that the pressure is coming from GESO, not from the faculty,” Brittenham said.
Members of locals 34 and 35, who have supported GESO’s efforts, also attended the meeting, which was held a day after the unions ratified new eight-year contracts.