Union leaders are considering ways to penalize workers who did not participate in the three-week strike earlier this month, Local 35 President Bob Proto said Thursday.
Proto said he already has appointed one member to a sub-committee that will work with attorneys to investigate whether the union should penalize members who crossed picket lines to work during the strike. Proto said he is hoping to assemble a full committee by the end of next week but has not yet considered what sorts of penalties to enforce.
Penalizing workers who do not participate in a strike is not common, but it is not altogether unheard of, said Lance Compa, a professor at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. If union leaders enforce such penalties, he said, it is usually for a modest monetary amount under $500.
“There’s a certain cost to the union for continued ill-will,” Compa said. “They have strong feelings about people who went back in [to work] for weakening the strike.”
Unions may legally fine workers who cross picket lines during a strike, Compa said, but leaders must present legal evidence at hearings to enforce such a penalty.
Both Yale President Richard Levin and University spokesman Tom Conroy declined to comment on the matter.
Many union members who participated in the walkout, which began Aug. 27 and ended last week, said they were resentful that union members who worked during the strike would receive the same contract benefits as those who stopped working.
Calhoun College dining hall worker Denise Oliver said she did not think it was fair for union members who did not strike to receive the same contracts as workers who did.
“I feel they shouldn’t get anything. They weren’t out there striking for it,” Oliver said. “I don’t think they would deserve it.”
During the strike, University and union estimates of the rate of participation in the walkout differed. Yale officials said 92 percent of Local 35 went on strike, while union leaders said 98 to 99 percent of the union failed to show up for work.
One Local 35 member, who works in Berkeley College dining hall, said she did not go on strike because she could not afford it. She said her family would have lost two incomes since her son, who also works at Yale, chose to participate in the walkout.
The worker said the atmosphere in the dining hall has been uncomfortable ever since her colleagues returned to work Sept. 22.
“People avoid you. They make your job difficult,” she said. “They make you feel like you’re a criminal.”
Despite the hostile response she has gotten from her co-workers, the union member said she does not regret choosing to work during the walkout.
“I did what I felt was right for me,” she said.
Yale and locals 34 and 35 settled eight-year contracts for both unions last Thursday after 19 months of negotiations. Both University and union leaders have said they hope to use the upcoming contract term to improve the two sides’ historically contentious relationship.
Workers in Local 35 will receive across-the-board raises that total 32.3 percent by January 2009. The contract agreement also nearly doubles workers’ monthly pension benefits and gives workers two-thirds of the retroactive pay due to them since the last contracts expired in January 2002.
— Staff Reporter Jessica Feinstein contributed to this report.