In a Nov. 25 New Haven Superior Court hearing, prosecutors and attorneys representing union supporters moved closer to resolving the charges remaining from acts of civil disobedience during this fall’s three-week strike by University employees. The state agreed not to pursue charges against Yale union presidents Bob Proto and Laura Smith if they perform community service in the next two months.
Tara Knight, one of the attorneys representing the union supporters, said the state nolled, or agreed not to pursue further at the time, the charges against defendants who had only been arrested once. The presiding judge then dismissed those charges, Knight said.
Eight defendants who face two charges of disorderly conduct, including Proto, Smith and John Wilhelm ’67, the president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, or HERE, had their cases continued until Jan. 20. Knight said the defendants had agreed to perform 16 hours of community service each before the January hearing in exchange for charges being nolled by the state. The defense will then move for the charges to be dismissed, Knight said.
“We believe the arrests were for a good cause and the community service is for a good cause,” Proto, the president of Local 35, said. “It is a win-win.”
In a separate hearing Nov. 21, a disorderly conduct charge against the Rev. Jesse Jackson, which resulted from a Sept. 1 arrest, was also nolled by prosecutors and then dismissed by the court.
Jackson did not respond to a request for comment on the dropped charge.
Yale President Richard Levin said he had no comment on the dismissal of the disorderly conduct charges.
The charges resulted from actions by members of locals 34 and 35 during the strike that ended Sept. 18. Locals 34 and 35 are Yale’s largest unions, representing 4,000 clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers. HERE is their parent union.
Proto said he had hoped prosecutors would noll the cases against him and the others facing two charges when they nolled charges against those facing only one charge. But he praised the work of his attorneys and said most of the defendants would probably end up doing more than 16 hours of service.
He said he would meet with community groups and with members of his union soon to discuss opportunities for service, including food and toy drives.
“There is just an endless list of opportunities,” Proto said.
Proto said some of the defendants may do their service together.
Smith, the president of Local 34, said she will probably perform her service by working with a group that helps women’s shelters by making packages of necessities. In addition, she said she will work on a food and toy drive through the Central Labor Council.
“I feel confident that there will probably be a lot of us, whether we have two charges or not or whether it was mandated by the court or not, who participate in these activities around the holidays,” Smith said.
Disorderly conduct charges were dismissed against other union supporters Oct. 31, Nov. 7, Nov. 13, Nov. 14 and Nov. 21. Around 300 total cases have been dismissed.