With their own union’s contract under negotiation, Local 34 President Laura Smith and nearly 80 members of the clerical and technical union gathered at Woodbridge Hall yesterday to show solidarity with other groups trying to unionize, as Smith presented Yale President Richard Levin with a petition signed by 2,370 workers.
The petition, signed by nearly 83 percent of the Local 34 bargaining unit, comes as Yale and its two largest recognized unions renegotiate contracts for nearly 4,000 Yale workers using a new process designed to improve historically divisive labor-management relations.
Union leaders, who also presented copies to representatives for Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield, School of Medicine Dean David Kessler and Yale-New Haven Hospital CEO Joseph Zaccagnino, said they hoped the contracts would not be settled until Yale addressed the organizing efforts of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization and the hospital workers. But many Local 34 members who attended to show their support for the other organizing efforts also expressed concern about the renegotiation of their own contract, which is not expected to end until at least May.
As he accepted the petition, which called on the University to raise salaries, improve retirement security, and address the organizing efforts of graduate students and hospital workers, Levin addressed the crowd and restated his commitment to fostering a “new era” in labor relations.
Levin added that the disagreements between the University and the unions over the recognition of GESO and the hospital workers, one of the biggest sources of tension between the two sides, “won’t inhibit our continuing to build a partnership and open environment.”
After Levin concluded his remarks, a Local 34 member asked him when the contracts would be settled. Levin said he hoped they would be settled soon, possibly as soon as Commencement in May.
“But not a settlement for the sake of settlement,” Smith responded.
She also told Levin that the unions had other concerns about the negotiations, particularly about the lack of top University administrators on the bargaining team and about job security and union growth issues scheduled to be discussed at the bargaining table next week.
Smith then led a procession of union members to deliver copies of the petition to the offices of Hockfield, Kessler and Zaccagnino.
Union leaders said the petition represented the highest number of Local 34 workers to take a stand on any issue in the 18-year history of the union.
“The vast majority [of Local 34 members] view this as a real opportunity for the right kind of change on this campus for working people,” Smith said.
Smith said Levin’s response was similar to his past comments on the graduate students and hospital workers, but said she hoped he would review the petition and recognize the support the two groups received from Local 34 members.
Some Local 34 members who supported the other organizing drives said they were primarily concerned with their own contracts, however.
Pamela Brantley, a faculty secretary in the Law School, attended the petition delivery and said she hoped it would help influence a change in the University’s position on the other organizing drives.
But she added that she was very concerned that potential negotiations over the other groups might affect her contract.
“The longer it takes, we lose,” Brantley said. “We want an end to negotiations — I will fight for the hospital workers, but to go out and have a strike for GESO, I won’t do that.”
Pamela Clifford, a financial assistant for Yale University Press, said she signed the petition to show support for her own union but does not support the graduate students or hospital workers. She said she attached a note saying she only supported locals 34 and 35, but only her name appeared on the petition.
Clifford said she was worried about the effect of the other organizing efforts on the progress of contract negotiations.
“I’m definitely concerned it’s going to hold up our contract negotiations for just locals 34 and 35 because they’re pushing so hard for the others,” Clifford said.
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