About 500 students and Yale union members will demand for the University to enhance day care options for Yale’s working mothers at a 6:30 p.m. rally at the Women’s Table on Cross Campus today, protest organizers said.
Undergraduate Organizing Committee members said they expect about 100 people — undergraduate students, members of Local 34 and the Graduate Employees and Students Organization — will accept arrests at a civil disobedience protest on High and Elm streets during the demonstration. The rally will follow a GESO chairperson election, during which members will likely elect Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 — the only candidate for the position– to replace current chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05, Seth said.
Award-winning columnist and author Barbara Ehrenreich will speak at tonight’s rally. One UOC member said Ehrenreich is prepared to accept an arrest at the protest.
GESO and union officials declined to confirm the details of tonight’s action.
GESO officials have promoted the event as the largest Yale labor protest since locals 34 and 35 — Yale’s two largest unions representing 4,000 clerical, technical, service and support workers — settled contracts with the University on Sept. 18 after a three-week strike.
“Sure there’s been some demobilization [since the September settlement],” Seth said. “[But] I do feel that the other unions understand that the victory they achieved in September was a community effort. They’ve expressed to us their desire to help us and continue to fight with us — there’s a sense of unfinished business.”
But Graduate School Dean Peter Salovey said the leadership change and planned civil disobedience do not change the administration’s stance against graduate student unionization.
“The funds that are provided [to] graduate students seem better characterized as financial aid, rather than wages,” Salovey said in an e-mail Tuesday. “The language of employer-employee relations just doesn’t capture very well the experience of being a graduate student, especially at Yale.”
UOC member Phoebe Rounds ’07 said she plans to attend tonight’s rally.
“I feel like this is my university and I’m here as an undergraduate woman,” Rounds said. “When I look and see what the faculty members go through here, I don’t want to have to face a system like that. I also think that system negatively affects us as undergraduates.”
Local 34 and GESO claim the University offers no subsidies for day care to any employees. In a Dec. 4 letter to Yale Corporation member Linda Mason, the groups called on Yale to provide “affordable on-site day care,” “give adequate health coverage for the families of every worker,” and “offer greater parental leave options.”
But Salovey has long advised students to work through elected representatives from the Graduate Students Assembly rather than through unionization to resolve differences with the administration.
“[GSA leaders] try to push forward key issues and try to change the policy rather than try to form a union and negotiate a giant contract,” GSA President Chris Mason GRD ’07 said.
Mason said GSA representatives are working with Yale Provost Susan Hockfield to negotiate childcare policies that balance student and administration demand.
“We’re not going to be comfortable unless we have a policy that the students are happy with,” said Mason, who said he met with Hockfield Tuesday morning to discuss childcare issues. “The administration has come forward to guarantee that while you’re taking some time off after childbirth, you do stay registered as a student. The policy should be official before Christmas.”
Currently the Yale Divinity School offers full-time daily day care for $7,200 per year. But Mason said similar care for graduate students can cost more than $10,000.
Childcare is one of the major components of GESO’s new issues-based platform, which the group launched this fall.