Up to 120 employees from the Yale University Security will vote today on whether to unionize.
Yale opposed the first attempt by security employees to unionize over the summer, citing the ineligibility of the AFL-CIO union the employees had chosen. Now, some security employees have contacted the International Union of Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, an independent union based in Michigan, which has been ruled eligible to represent the guards. The National Labor Relations Board will administer Thursday’s vote from 6 a.m. until some time in the evening at both the security headquarters at 100 Church St. and at 79 Howe St. Two sources in campus safety said the move to unionize began as a response to a series of Security layoffs announced last December and implemented in mid-May. Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said in an e-mail that the University would not speculate why some Security employees want to unionize.
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One former high-ranking security officer said that before last December, talk of unionization was almost non-existent. That all changed, he said, when Yale announced that 13 officers would be losing their jobs — including some of the most experienced and highly paid members of the organization.
“That’s why we were laid off,” the official said. “Because we were expensive.”
Deputy University Secretary Martha Highsmith said at the time of the layoffs that the cuts were intended to reduce expenses and increase efficiency.
Although many of the fired employees earned the most money, the layoffs also cut out the institutional knowledge of the department, the former official said, leading to what he called turmoil in the department. Among the effects of the layoffs, he said, have been cancelled training classes and a general lack of coordination.
Asked about the concerns of the official, Conroy did not respond directly, saying only that, “Yale values [its employees’] expertise and dedication and provides a productive and respectful working environment with excellent salaries and benefits that allow us to attract and retain the best employees.”
One current security employee said that once the Michigan union, SPFPA, became involved in the process, employees received fliers in the mail promoting the benefits of union membership. The union also invited security employees to a function in West Haven.
Yale has been talking to security employees about the proposed unionization as well. Conroy said the University is helping its employees exercise their legally protected right to make an informed choice about unionization. This has included answering questions about the election process, current wage rates and benefits, collective bargaining and the prospective union, he said. The current security officer said the University held at least one question and answer session with Associate Vice President for Administration Janet Lindner and a summary of Yale Security benefits from Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel. Two sources said Lindner has been showing up at shifts and roll-calls for officers.
The officer said some of his coworkers might have a problem with how their department is managed, but he does not know of anyone who has a problem with his salaries or benefits. Since the security employees have no official contract between a union and Yale, the officer said, employee complaints could lead to firing.
Approximately six of the laid off employees have since returned to employment at Yale Security, the former official said, which he attributed to the loyalty they and the other laid off employees have retained for the University throughout the changes.
“We love the University,” the official said. “But we just want to be treated fairly.”
SPFPA already represents security departments at Cornell and Princeton.
Holding a union election requires at least 30 percent support of the workers who would be represented, according to the NLRB.