The graduate student union Local 33 gathered in front of Woodbridge Hall on Wednesday to demand that Yale begin contract negotiations by the middle of next week.
At the rally, Local 33 — which won union elections in six academic departments last February — unfurled a massive petition stretching from the Hall of Graduate Studies to Beinecke Plaza with signatures from around 12,000 supporters, including undergraduates, graduate students, state politicians and New Haven residents according to a Local 33 press release. The petition called for Yale to meet Local 33 at the bargaining table by 5:30 p.m. on April 12.
“We’re ready to sit down and negotiate our contracts, and we’re really excited about that,” said Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18, the chair of Local 33. “We want to work with the University and begin that process.”
But in a statement to the News, University spokesman Tom Conroy said Local 33 has yet to make a formal request to bargain, which would have to take the form of “a letter from an identifiable representative of the union.”
“The petitions delivered today were signed by thousands of people, the vast majority of whom are not members of any Local 33 bargaining unit,” Conroy wrote.
On Feb. 22, six Yale departments — English, History of Art, History, Sociology, Math and Geology and Geophysics — voted to unionize. The elections in Political Science and East Asian Language and Literatures remain undecided as the National Labor Relations Board determines whether certain voters were eligible to participate. The Physics Department voted against unionization.
As the election process unfolded over the last few months, the union drew support from local and national politicians, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I–Vt. More recently, in a letter to Salovey dated March 27, the two U.S. senators from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and Chris Murphy, both Democrats, called on Yale to open negotiations with Local 33.
“We are confident that any outstanding issues with regard to the bargaining unit in the two departments under review can be addressed through negotiations and should not stand in the way of the bargaining process for other departments,” the letter stated.
Members of Local 33 collected signatures for the petition in dining halls over the past few days, speaking to undergraduates as they lined up for food about the burgeoning graduate student labor movement at Yale. At the rally, Local 33 Co-Chair Robin Canavan GRD ’19 expressed gratitude for the support the union has received both inside and outside the University.
“It’s really cool that we have so much support across the state,” Canavan said.
But even as Local 33 prepares for negotiations, Yale is planning to file a second “request for review” challenging the legal basis of the departmental union elections. The NLRB dismissed Yale’s first request for review — which sought to prevent the elections from taking place — in February, and has not yet decided whether the University should be allowed to file another challenge at this stage in the process.
On April 4, Local 33 filed legal documents with the NLRB arguing that Yale does not have the right to mount another challenge.
“No known appellate body allows a party aggrieved by a lower-body decision to file serial requests for review, appeals or petitions for certiorari,” union lawyers wrote. “Allowing such multiplicity would result in inefficient, prejudicial and duplicative tactical filings intended to get more bites at the apple.”
Asked on Wednesday to respond to the University’s ongoing legal opposition to Local 33, Greenberg gestured to the graduate students assembled outside Woodbridge.
“This is our response,” he said.
This post was updated to reflect the version that ran in print on April 6.