In a report called “When Bad Labor Relations Go Good: a Roadmap for Labor Peace at Yale,” the Right To Organize Monitoring Committee plans to recommend that Yale seek alternative methods to address unionizing drives by graduate students and Yale-New Haven Hospital workers.
Josh Civin ’96 LAW ’03, one of the leaders of the group that is issuing the report, said the group has no formal ties to the organizing groups. He said his group based its conclusion on six months of research and on interviews with 31 graduate students and hospital workers who had tried to organize unions.
The recommendations of the report echo arguments used by graduate students and hospital workers trying to unionize, who have asked for recognition through a card-count neutrality agreement. Under such an agreement, the University would agree not to speak for or against unionization and recognize a union if more than half of eligible members turned in union cards.
But University leaders have pointed to National Labor Relations Board elections as the established way to form unions. University leaders also say they oppose graduate student unionization, and that they do not control Yale-New Haven Hospital and so cannot recognize a hospital workers’ union.
The report criticizes NLRB elections, saying that they are conducive to delays, intimidation and a hostile work atmosphere, and claims that a private agreement between the University and groups trying to unionize could avoid such delays and hostility.
The report also describes what some of the 31 graduate students and hospital workers the law students interviewed called a “climate of fear and distrust” in the workplace, created by the perceived anti-union attitudes and actions of their employers.
Union spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff said she hoped Yale will adopt the report’s suggestions, but Yale President Richard Levin said the recommendations do not represent satisfactory ways to deal with organizing efforts.
“We’ve talked about that possibility for informal understandings with labor organizations,” Levin said. “The problem with that is that if you reach such an understanding, that can be used as a basis for a labor organization to go to the NLRB to have itself declared a union without an election, de facto. While it appears attractive on the face, it really doesn’t work. It’s a Trojan horse strategy, if you will.”
–Arielle Levin Becker