Yale’s labor unions began an era of relative peace and trust-building with the University two years ago after three weeks on strike, but new allegations of unfair hiring practices have raised tensions and brought protesters back to management offices.
Yale officials said they plan to meet later this week with leaders of Local 34, the union for clerical and technical workers, regarding a handful of positions the University filled without publicly notifying employees that the jobs were available. While union leaders said the lack of job postings constituted a misinterpretation of contract language, which requires that all such positions be publicly listed, Yale human resources officials said the promotions were within their rights and benefited both parties.
The union’s primary complaint focused on member Teri Muro, the senior administrative assistant in the Jonathan Edwards College master’s office. Muro — formerly the office’s accountant — was promoted from within after having completed the required six months of retraining before her predecessor retired in February. Local 34 leaders said they filed a grievance regarding this promotion two weeks prior to Muro’s appointment, but said they made little headway in conversations with human resources officials.
Prior to a meeting with Yale’s labor-management policy board, union members protested in front of the Human Resources Office on Whitney Avenue two weeks ago, due largely to frustration with the pace of the grievance process, organizer Mark Firla said.
“We’re trying to pursue every option available to us,” Firla said. “We had initially tried to start a discussion about it, but from our perspective we were really stonewalled.”
But Yale officials said the Muro promotion was in accordance with the University’s right to refrain from posting a position in cases where a staff member’s position is upgraded as a direct result of new duties being added to their existing job.
“I certainly believe that people should have promotion opportunities, but there are times when roles and responsibilities change, and grades can be reassigned based on an audit process,” Chief Human Resources Officer Rob Schwartz said.
Though Muro declined to comment, JE Master Gary Haller said Muro and her predecessor, Barbara Goddard, had approached Haller about appointing Muro to Goddard’s position. Haller said he was concerned about the contract stipulations involved but was assured by the two women that the contract language would not be violated. The two told him if he called the appointment a “reorganization” it would be within the bounds of the contract language, Haller said.
Still, union officials said they were particularly incensed in Muro’s case because her position is designated “Grade E,” a job level created in accordance with contract negotiations that denotes seniority among the approximately 3,000 members of Local 34.
“The E level means a lot to many of our people,” Local 34 President Laura Smith said. “We want to change the patterns of Yale’s past … and this is an active subversion of our contract.”
Haller said he regrets the complaints that have ensued, but he said Muro is the most qualified for the position and would not have been able to begin her six-month training period until February had the job been posted.
“That would have been a really difficult time in February, had we done that,” Haller said. “My actions, in my perspective, were all about trying to do the best for the college and the students we are trying to service.”
In addition to the Muro case, Firla said four other similar cases are being explored throughout the University. Yale’s Policy Board will address the union’s class grievance and five individual grievances after an initial meeting between Local 34 and human resources representatives this week, said John Pepper, Yale’s vice president for finance and administration.