Dwight Hall to weigh in on unionization

In another contribution to the debate over the potential unionization of Yale-New Haven Hospital, Dwight Hall will draft a resolution this week to show its support for hospital workers and union leaders.

The Dwight Hall executive committee will hold a third cabinet meeting to discuss this issue on Thursday before voting on a resolution next week. Committee members said the meeting is intended to present the 70 cabinet members with information about the events that led to the cancellation of last December’s union election so that the process of drafting the resolution will be more democratic and participatory.

The decision to weigh in on unionization at the hospital stemmed from Dwight Hall’s history as an advocate for social justice and its involvement in community affairs since its creation in 1886, said Jessica Bialecki ’08, student co-coordinator of Dwight Hall.

“This is definitely an issue that has been all over the New Haven community for the last year,” she said. “As students who are members of the community, we felt that this is an issue we need to spend some time looking at, and potentially express our institutional voice on behalf of the workers.”

Lauren Jacobson ’08, another student co-coordinator at Dwight Hall, said she hopes the resolution will contribute to the dialogue surrounding the dispute and “affect decision-makers both at Yale and the hospital to push for a fair process.”

Members of Dwight Hall’s executive committee said the resolution will most likely criticize hospital management for its violation of the Election Principles Agreement created a year ago to govern the conduct of the hospital and the union trying to organize there. The hospital was found guilty of violating federal labor law by an independent arbitrator because managers conducted anti-union meetings for employees as part of their campaign against unionization.

Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek ’05 said he is supportive of Dwight Hall’s decision to use its institutional voice to encourage student groups to get involved in the hospital unionization situation. Because of the organization’s historical involvement with social justice, Shalek said, he looks forward to Dwight Hall’s resolution.

“I’m very disappointed because the [Elections Principles Agreement] was a positive step forward in terms of community relations at the hospital, but instead, it has turned into a real black barn in a long history of poor community relations,” Shalek said. “There needs to be necessary reaction to remedy that situation, and I’m open and eager to see what remedies Dwight Hall proposes.”

Although they anticipate that the resolution will put the blame on the hospital, committee members said they are much less certain of the specific details of the resolution, especially in terms of a proposed plan of action. Among the cabinet, Bialecki said, there are many different views on the right way to go forward, including whether to support a cardcheck process or a simple up-or-down vote. Because of this uncertainty, the executive committee will not have a clearer idea of the details of the resolution until cabinet members convene for Thursday’s final meeting to express their own views before the resolution is drafted.

The series of cabinet meetings is a reaction to a Dwight Hall resolution on financial aid, which failed last February to pass by a two-thirds majority in the cabinet. Feedback from cabinet members about the last voting process spurred the executive committee to seek out members’ opinions both before and during the drafting of the resolution, in advance of the final vote.

Dwight Hall’s decision to weigh in on the unionization issue has been noticed by leaders of other social justice groups on campus, many of whom expressed optimism about the role students can play in pushing for a fair resolution to the conflict. Hugh Baran ’09, a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, said that although it is unlikely that student groups alone could forge a solution to the complex dispute, he thinks their opinions can “absolutely” have an impact when taken in conjunction with efforts made by others in the community.

“I think students, political leaders like Mayor [John] DeStefano, the Board of Aldermen [and] clergy are stepping up,” he said. “Other organizations have been stepping up too. Students are one piece of that … We can have an impact in the situation, but as part of a broader mobilization and a broader effort.”

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