Union explores punishments

Local 35 President Bob Proto announced the members of a committee that will investigate possible actions against Local 35 members who continued working during this fall’s three-week strike at a union membership meeting Wednesday.

Proto said the committee will examine union bylaws and labor law and consult with the union’s attorneys to determine what actions are possible. He said the committee will then give a recommendation to Local 35′s executive board, which will pass the issue to the union’s full membership for a vote.

Proto said the committee will send regular reports to him but declined to say when the group may reach a recommendation.

University and union leaders differ in their estimates of the number of Local 35 members who did not join the strike, which ended Sept. 18. Yale has said eight percent of union members came to work, while Local 35 has said the number is only one or two percent.

Local 35 represents about 1,100 service and maintenance workers.

Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the University had no comment on the new committee.

“That’s a union matter, not a University matter,” Conroy said.

Local 34 President Laura Smith said her union — which represents clerical and technical workers — does not plan to look into penalizing workers who did not join in the strike.

Proto said there was an “outpouring of concern” within his union about workers who did not honor the strike, which was called by the union’s bargaining unit. He said hundreds of Local 35 members had asked the union to look into the issue.

“It’s what the membership wants,” Proto said.

John Cotter, the assistant regional director of the National Labor Relations Board’s Connecticut office said unions can take a number of actions against members who cross picket lines during a strike. Cotter, who said it is “not uncommon” for unions to try to discipline members who did not join a strike, said that depending on the circumstances, a union can fine non-striking members. He said unions can also expel or suspend workers from membership, deny them certain benefits, or limit their ability to run for union office.

Cotter said penalties must be publicly announced prior to the strike and be consistent with past union precedents. He said penalties must also concur with the NLRB’s past allowances. Penalties must also not be arbitrary or discriminatory, he said.

“It’s all very much a gray area,” Cotter said. “It all depends on the specific facts in a specific case.”

A major issue in many cases involving workers who cross picket lines is whether they resigned their union membership before going to work during the strike. Workers who resign their membership beforehand are not subject to union sanctions, Cotter said.

Proto said he was not aware of any Yale workers who gave up their union membership before breaking the strike.

Cotter said members who disagreed with a punishment imposed by their union could file a complaint with the NLRB.

Local 35 President Bob Proto (far right) protests during this fall's three-week strike. Proto has appointed a committee to investigate actions against union members who worked during the walkout.
Nathan Francis
Local 35 President Bob Proto (far right) protests during this fall's three-week strike. Proto has appointed a committee to investigate actions against union members who worked during the walkout.

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