After several recent mailings regarding this year’s Yale Corporation election, union leaders objected to what they called “disappointing” criticisms of financial ties between Corporation candidate the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93 and Yale’s unions.
But two groups that sent letters to alumni defended their statements. The Association of Yale Alumni Board of Governors said it was merely educating alumni, and the leader of a group supporting Lee’s opponent, Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86, said he would be suspicious of donations from any University-related group.
In several recent mailings to alumni, the AYA board and an independent pro-Lin group raised questions about Lee’s candidacy and active campaigning. The mailings have particularly pointed to $30,000 in campaign contributions from Yale’s two largest unions.
Union spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff said the criticisms in the letters seemed seemed more in line with old union-busting strategies than the idea of a new partnership between Yale and its unions.
“We’re really trying to remake our relationship with the University, both as people who work here but also people who live in the city of New Haven,” Chernoff said.
“In that context, it’s extremely disappointing to see some people who are leaders in the Yale community reverting to their old ways of union bashing, and [implying] that everything that’s associated with the union is something to be avoided at all costs. I think that’s a big disappointment in the current context of trying to refashion the relationship.”
But former University Secretary Henry “Sam” Chauncey ’57 said the critical statements made by his pro-Lin group — which has spent $80,000 on its campaign — have nothing to do with unions specifically.
“I would be concerned whether it was accepting money from the unions or the football association or anyone else,” Chauncey said. “Our concern is that if a person who is a trustee is obligated to a particular interest, he’s not going to be concerned about the University as a whole but he’s going to be primarily concerned about the interests from which he has received the money.”
Local minister Lillian Daniel DIV ’93, however, disagreed.
“What they’re really saying is he’s a tainted candidate because the workers at Yale support him,” said Daniel, who is one of a group of local ministers who convinced Lee to run for the Corporation. “That’s a pretty harsh message.”
The most recent letter, mailed to nearly 115,000 alumni last Friday by the AYA Board of Governors, included a section entitled “Seven things you should know before voting in the Alumni Fellow election.” Among the seven was the question “What is the involvement of organized labor?” followed by a description of the financial help Lee received from the unions last year. The same section noted that Lee’s campaign coincides with negotiations between Yale and its unions for new contracts.
AYA Executive Director Jeffrey Brenzel, who spoke on behalf of the AYA board, said the recent letter was not intended to attack the unions or union-affiliated groups. Rather, he said the mailing reflected the board’s concern that positions Lee had taken publicly were not reflected in Lee’s campaign literature.
“The board’s concern is [that] if this is what Lee believes, and if these are in fact his views, and these are the demands that he feels should be made on Yale, why would he not communicate them to alumni, since they seem quite relevant to the kinds of positions he might take as a trustee,” Brenzel said.
Although Lin has not publicized any positions she might take as a trustee, Brenzel said AYA board members were concerned with only Lee because they believed that there is a discrepancy between his public statements and the views expressed in his campaign materials.