Less than a week before New Haven’s mayoral election, in which union endorsements have played a major role, Yale’s Unite Here Local 35 union elected a new executive board.
Local 35 represents primarily blue-collar Yale employees, including custodial, dining and maintenance workers. On Wednesday evening, members of the union voted to fill the Local 35’s 12-person executive board as well as four other senior positions: president, vice president, community vice president and chief steward. Though the full results of the election have yet to be released to union members, the News obtained a list of newly elected officials, of which most are returning members and many are also involved in New Haven politics.
Longtime President Bob Proto ran uncontested for reelection and Wingate was reelected as vice president. Ward 2 Alderman Frank Douglass, who works in Yale Facilities, was elected community vice president, and Margaret Riccio was reelected chief steward.
Newly elected officials in the union told the News they hope recently installed University President Peter Salovey will work to enhance the relationship between the union and the University.
“I would like to see more collaboration and community about how we do things with workers,” said Ward 29 Alderman and Local 35 Vice President Brian Wingate. Wingate is a facilitator for Best Practices, an initiative involving representatives from the University and Locals 34 and 35 designed to promote a positive relationship between Yale and its unions.
Over their next two years on the board of Local 35, both Wingate and Douglass said they will focus on what they believe to be the most necessary change in Yale’s relationship with its unions — an increased emphasis on “best practices,” which are defined as professional methods widely agreed to be effective.
Yale needs to create the “culture to be a best-practice style community,” Wingate said.
Proto did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
When asked about Salovey, the two union leaders said they thought he will be effective in managing the administration’s relationship with the unions. Still, they added that they hope Yale’s new president will prioritize collaboration between the University and its employees. In order to build a more positive relationship, Douglass suggested that Salovey will need to overcome institutional hurdles.
“I know the Yale Corporation is actually the overseer of the University,” he said. “The president has a voice, but it’s suppressed somewhat.”
Still, Douglass said he is skeptical of the administration’s recent sustainability push. Citing his 23 years working in Yale’s dining halls, he said new University policies have decreased Yale’s reliance on local vendors, and that this has had a negative effect on the New Haven economy.
Douglass added that he hoped to see the unions take a greater role in the surrounding community.
“I think that the unions should be a little more open,” Douglass said. “We should have a closer relationship with not just the Yale community but [also the New Haven] community.”
Salovey, University Vice President for Human Resources Mike Peel and University Vice President for Finance and Business Operations Shauna King could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Local 35’s counterpart, Unite Here Local 34, did not hold elections, according to Local 34 Executive Board member Shirley Lin, a senior administrative assistant in the School of Medicine. Local 34 represents many of Yale’s white and pink-collar staff.
Historically, Yale’s unions and the University administration have worked against each other more often than they worked together. For decades, Yale workers frequently went on strike during contract negotiations, effectively shuttering the University. But that pattern changed during the administration of former University President Richard Levin, who made major concessions to the unions.
In the summer of 2012, the University and both Local 34 and 35 — which represent nearly 5,000 of Yale’s clerical, technical and maintenance employees — renegotiated their contracts. Local 34 members won wage increases of nearly 16 percent while Local 35 members’ pay increased by 14 percent. In an unprecedented step, members of the blue-collar union also received a contractual assurance of no layoffs until 2016.
Of the 15 union members who ran for Local 34’s executive board, the 12 elected were Craig Green, Hope Johnson, Salvatore DeLucia, James Carr, Mike Dowd, John Martin, Mike Boyd, Mike Shoan, Peter Gagliardi, Cielo Lizasuain, Joe Antinucci and Patricia James.
The 12 work in various positions across the University. Green, for instance, works in campus mail, while Boyd works in central area maintenance.
The last major union strike occurred in 2003, when union workers picketed for three weeks during the beginning of the fall term.