At the last rally organized by the Yale Police Department’s union, organizer John Grottole said members had chosen to keep the rally low-key.
“We could have bullhorns,” Grottole said at the time of the Oct. 11 rally.
At the latest rally on Nov. 21, about 50 supporters and members of the Yale Police Benevolent Association, or YPBA, the union representing Yale police officers, rallied in front of Woodbridge Hall, employing more confrontational tactics in their ongoing labor dispute. For one thing, this time Grottole was indeed shouting through a bullhorn.
The new tactics are emblematic of the YPBA’s increased frustration with its lack of progress at the bargaining table. The police have been renewing their old contract on a monthly basis for the last 17 months while negotiating for a new contract.
“We’re pretty much at a standstill,” YPBA chief steward Christopher Morganti said. “We need to take it out in public because that’s all Yale really responds to.”
University Secretary Linda Lorimer said the package the University is offering the officers is a good one, and that Yale is open to ways of improving the offer.
But much of the anger at the rally was directed at Lorimer, with several YPBA members calling Lorimer a “coward” at the event. Morganti said the anger at Lorimer stems from a retirement dinner for a Yale police officer at which Lorimer told the police in attendance that the University would offer a generous contract to its police officers.
But University Secretary Martha Highsmith said it may not be possible for Yale to offer police the same contract Lorimer and others intended to offer at the beginning of negotiations.
“Quite frankly, Yale University is in a different financial situation than a year and a half ago,” Highsmith said.
In October, Yale Provost Susan Hockfield announced a projected $30 million budget deficit for the fiscal year 2004-2005. Hockfield said Yale would have to cut expenses and reduce staff to deal with the deficit.
Apart from Yale’s financial difficulties, the YPBA faces an uphill battle in drumming up support for its cause. This fall, locals 34 and 35, Yale’s two largest unions, which represent about 4,000 clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers, held a three-week strike that gained national media attention. The YPBA has only 55 members and had not publicized its negotiations before this academic year.
Support from locals 34 and 35 has been inconsistent. Local 34 President Laura Smith spoke at the rally on Nov. 21, and said about 50 members of her union attended at least part of the event. But Local 35 President Bob Proto did not attend the rally himself, saying he had other plans, and said Local 35 members could make their own decision about whether or not to attend.
Student support has likewise been spotty during the negotiations. About half a dozen members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, which organized activism by students supporting Locals 34 and 35, attended the rally. But apart from the die-hard labor supporters on campus, students as a whole have not been drawn to the YPBA’s cause.
The current contract is renewed automatically on the 15th day of each month unless one side decides to cancel it. If it is cancelled by either party, job actions, including a strike, are possible. Morganti said the contract would likely be renewed in December.
“Right now with the holidays coming up we don’t see a lot happening,” Morganti said. “We’re looking at January right now as the time when we’re going to have to start making decisions about canceling the contract.”
Morganti said there are no more negotiating sessions currently planned between the YPBA and the University. Highsmith said Yale is trying to organize more bargaining sessions.