As union and University negotiators continue their fourth week of work on new contracts for nearly 4,000 Yale workers, leaders from Yale’s unions said they are unhappy that the University’s negotiating team lacks high-ranking administrators.
But Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said University leaders maintain active communication between negotiators, led by Director of Labor Relations Brian Tunney, and do not plan to make changes to their bargaining team.
Union leaders characterized their bargaining team — which includes the presidents of locals 34 and 35, as well as John Wilhelm ’67, the president of the international union to which locals 34 and 35 belong — as a sign of their increased commitment to changing the relationship between Yale and its unions. But Klasky said Yale leaders remain committed to and involved in the new relationship, even if they do not sit directly at the bargaining table.
With discussions about more contentious issues on the horizon, including an expected March 20 meeting on union growth — a topic union leaders said they hope will include discussion of graduate students and hospital workers attempting to unionize — union leaders said having University decision-makers in the negotiating room would become increasingly necessary.
“We have committed the top officers of our union to this process because we think it’s so important, and because we’re so strongly committed to trying to change the relationship between the union and University in a very fundamental way,” union spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff said. “We thought that that was an important expression of commitment on our part.”
But Klasky said the University already has expressed its commitment to improving the relationship between Yale and its unions and does not plan to change the composition of its negotiating team.
The University bargaining team, includes nine administrators besides Tunney, most involved with labor relations and human resources.
Klasky added that earlier during bargaining, when union leaders had asked if Vice President of Finance and Administration Robert Culver would attend negotiations, University leaders informed them that Culver would stay very involved.
Wilhelm, a prominent figure in the national labor movement, has attended nearly every bargaining session so far for the union negotiating team.
This week, negotiating team members have been meeting in subcommittees to discuss smaller issues while John Stepp, the labor-management consultant who has been overseeing negotiations, is out of town. Chernoff characterized the meetings as mostly informational, and said the subcommittees would report back to the larger group when formal talks with Stepp resume.
Union leaders said they hope to discuss the organizing efforts of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization and hospital workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital. University leaders have said they will not discuss either organizing effort as part of negotiations with locals 34 and 35. Because the organizing efforts do not pertain directly to conditions of employment for the locals, they are not subject to mandatory bargaining and neither side can force the other to discuss them.
In the past, Wilhelm, Local 35 President Bob Proto and Local 34 President Laura Smith have all indicated that they want GESO and the hospital workers to be dealt with as part of the current negotiations, and Wilhelm characterized recognition of the two groups as “prerequisites” for a new tone in labor-management relations.