Unions to vote on contract

After four decades of embattled negotiations between the University and its two labor unions, Local 34 and Local 35 are slated to vote on a new three-year union contract an unprecedented nine months ahead of time, union members said Friday.

If the vote passes — which is likely, according to interviews with a dozen union members and officials — it would be the first time in 22 years that a labor strike has not occurred during negotiations.

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The yet-to-be finalized agreement, which is similar to the current contract between the University and its unions, was announced to union members earlier this week. And although the unions have shared an rocky relationship with Yale over the past four decades, several union members said they feel optimistic about the future of the University’s relationship with its staff.

The fact that a contract was drafted early, some union members said, was emblematic of a departure from the past.

“It’s a historic turn of events to be in the situation that we are in,” Yale unions spokesman Evan Cobb GRD ’05 said. “It’s an exciting moment to be in.”

But he added that he will not disclose details on the contract until the union decides whether to approve the current draft on April 14.

With some concessions by both parties — including stronger job security language, which was fought for by union officials after the University indicated that widespread layoffs were inevitable — the terms of the agreement are nearly the same as those stated in the current eight-year contract, union members said over the weekend. The members also stressed that the contract’s language has yet to be finalized.

The presidents for Locals 34 and 35 — Laura Smith and Bob Proto, respectively — did not return several requests for comment left over the weekend.

The dozen union members interviewed by the News over the weekend said University officials are excited about the agreement, even though they had to agree to concessions during the contract process.

Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel did not respond to multiple requests for comment over the weekend. The Labor-Management Relations division of the Human Resources Department referred comment Friday to the Office of Public Affairs. University spokeswoman Helaine Klasky had no comment when contacted by the News on Friday afternoon.

The union members said they were excited by the early creation of the new contract. Many declined to discuss specific details because they were told not to discuss them until the day of the vote.

Still, they attributed the creation of the early contract to a better relationship among the parties due to the “Best Practices” agreement created in the current contract. Modeled after labor practices in other corporate environments, the Best Practices board members, comprised of University administrators and union officials, can resolve conflicts and better labor relations, according to the Locals 34 and 35 union contracts.

Despite the years of conversations University administrators and union officials have had about their relationship and potential worker conflicts, the recent round of negotiations indicate that the unions kept the current economic uncertainty in mind. As recently as Wednesday, Local 34 members had been pushing for organized conversations about how the faltering economy would affect worker conditions in the immediate future.

Because University and union officials expect the economy to improve soon, the proposed union contract will only last three years.

For Maureen Jones, a library services assistant in Sterling Memorial Library and a steering committee member of the Best Practices initiative, the move is momentous.

“We had a strike almost every time a contract had been coming up. It’s been a very, very hard relationship and with the language that we won in our last contract [the “Best Practices” initiative], it set the precedent for trying to do it a new way,” said Jones, who is a Local 34 Executive Board member and had worked to create the union in 1983. “We try to understand their interest, and they try to understand ours.”

Shirley Lin, a Local 34 district representative who works in the Genetics Department in the School of Medicine, said the current agreement “adds progress and growth” to the union’s labor conditions and will allow the parties to revisit labor issues when the economy improves. She said she will vote for the agreement.

“I think it’d be a wonderful change of pace for students to go through a four-year or six-year program without having to encounter a strike,” she said.

To be sure, an agreement forged nine months early is a vast improvement from 2002, the last time the unions negotiated an agreement with Yale. Union members eventually voted to sign a contract with the University in September 2003, after 19 months of rocky negotiations and over four weeks of striking.

The contract’s eight-year term was the longest ever for a Yale labor contract, though the University had originally proposed a 10-year term at the time. Union members said the economy was better, and workers felt more comfortable with a long-term contract. The current contract will expire Jan. 20., 2010.

Local 34 is Yale’s clerical and technical employee union, and Local 35 is Yale’s service and maintenance employee union.

Isaac Arnsdorf and Paul Needham contributed reporting.

Comments

  • blue collar

    unions suck,all they do is raise the cost of living.i got friends with famalies who got laid off,and these entitled whiners are voting on a contract!!

  • collar

    I agree with you.

  • Anonymous

    I for one would like to know what the concessions are before I know how I will vote.

  • J-Light

    Amazing how the unions will continue to get everything they want, while management gets screwed royally. i guess i will do nothing at work now. it seems to be rewarded

  • Ann

    Before the employees of Yale University voted to be in their union 34/35, they should have thought of the consequences. Employees used poor judgement by voting them in. If their contract is up in 2010, what gives them the right to have it both ways? The union doesn't give a rat's butt about those employees. They just care about how it is going to look when all the layoffs comes. HEY NEW HAVEN, JUST LOOK AT WHAT THE UNIONS HAVE DONE SO FAR FOR THE ECONOMY. Watch how those employees are going to sacrifice with their "new" contract to make the union look good.

  • so….

    Basically Yale just bent over. Nice.
    It's safe to assume all the layoffs will come from management.

  • Just a number

    We have 9 C & T's with 17 management personnel to supervise us. How many do we actually need? I've seen my Director 3 times in the last 5 years, my manager once in the last 6 months. I'd never notice they were missing if they laid off most of them. It's terrible that anyone has to go in this economy, but some areas are extremely overloaded with management. Don't blame the average employee or lower level supervisor for the featherbedding that went on for years.

  • Hard worker

    Unions protect the lazy workers, who get away with their abusive practices while the good hard workers get stuck picking up their slack..they sit back and whine and complain, yet, are not concerned about their representation of a office..
    unions do protect the fat/skinny lazy, selfish, self-centered employees who do no work but do all the grievance filing against the supervisors whose hands are pretty must tied and these lazy inconsiderate employees, do all they can to pass probationary time lines with their acts of good faith then once hired they are the slackers and they end up being the bad apples that TRY to spoil the whole bunch..though, what goes around comes around..union or not, laziness will get them no where…