Congratulations, Yale Class of 2001! As you head out into the real world, you go with four years of our support behind you. We’ve worked hard to make sure your hard work paid off, and now we wish you all the best.

We are the ones who have served you three meals a day for the past four years and the ones who cleaned your bathrooms and your classrooms. We’re the ones who have taught your sections and helped you understand what that professor was talking about. We’re the ones who helped you get in to ask for a dean’s excuse, and we helped you put together your resumes, your transcripts and your applications, helping you prepare for the next stage of your life. We may even have saved your life, if you ended up in the hospital.

You may be wondering why so many of us are here, on this morning of this year. You may be wondering why so many of us are holding picket signs on the day that you graduate from Yale. We are here for one simple reason: we want Yale to help us set a new tone for labor relations.

You came here in 1997, less than a year after Yale settled the contract under which some of us work today. You graduate on the eve of that contract’s expiration next January. While you were here, President Levin stepped in to help work out a “card-count neutrality” agreement at the Omni Hotel in 1998. The agreement worked: their union was recognized and their contract settled peacefully.

As you leave, Yale’s graduate teachers and hospital workers are asking for the same kind of agreement so they can make their decision without disruption.

We want you to be the graduating class that remembers the campaign that changed the tone of labor relations at Yale. We want you to be the ones who remember how it was that Yale agreed to card-count neutrality for all of its employees. We want you to be the first of many graduating classes to know labor peace at Yale.

Congratulations. We are proud to have shared the campus with you for the last four years.

Bob Proto, Laura Smith, J.T. Way and Jerry Brown are leaders of the groups comprising the Federation of Hospital and University Employees.