To the Editor:

I am appalled by the News’ editorial (“Disingenuous dealings ruin ‘new tone'”, 9/6). It suggests that members of the University’s unions are puppets-on-strings, being manipulated by a leadership that, according to the News, is “conducting an experiment for the struggling national labor movement.”

Such a characterization of “rank-and-file” union members suggests that they are ignorant of both what is in their best interest and how they are moved to achieve it. Such a characterization comes dangerously close to the classist view that working men and women couldn’t possibly understand what’s best for themselves, their families and their fellow workers. Union members voted freely last week to authorize a strike, if necessary. Yale students must understand –and they will if they take the time to talk to union members about what they believe to be at stake in these negotiations –that no union takes labor actions lightly. There are huge personal and financial risks involved. Because the risks are so large, students should respect the unions’ assertion that collective action is the best –and perhaps only way to achieve their long-term hopes.

Which brings me to a second quote, from Meghan Clyne’s column (“Yale, workers benefit from union-free community,” 9/6), that “the whole purpose of a union is to gather employees to try and gain influence as a mob.” In a sense, Clyne is correct: unions often appear as a “mob” –to those persons who hold power over the lives and fortunes of the members of that mob.

But Clyne is foolish to suggest that union members are “stripped of their individual voices and self-respect in the bargain.” Collective action represents a human endeavor of a higher order than the selfish “me first” individualism that she finds absent in union activity.

When a person freely subverts their own immediate self-interest to support the well-being of a larger community, they engage in a fundamental act of building healthier societies.

David Lewicki ’97

September 6, 2002

To the Editor:

The Yale Daily News editorial (“Disingenuous dealings ruin ‘new tone’,” 9/6) criticized union workers for planning to strike to support the rights of Yale hospital employees and Yale graduate students to organize and form unions. Your Sept. 6 editorial was neither objective nor well-informed.

Whatever your feelings about the union issue, I think every one in the Yale community agrees that Yale should be a beacon of the democratic process. Yale should be a community of informed debate and principled action.

But the Yale administration has violated exactly these principles in their treatment of Yale employees. For some time, employees at Yale-New Haven Hospital and among the graduate students have been speaking up about problems in their workplaces and have been pressing for changes in their working conditions. Over and over again, the Yale administration has illegally sought to silence hospital employees and graduate students by threatening them with reprisals for speaking up and taking action.

This fact has been confirmed on several occasions by federal courts — the Yale administration has broken the law by violating the rights of its employees to free association and free speech. If there is a strike, it will be because the administration has created an atmosphere of fear and conflict among its employees by violating the basic rules that bind us together in a community.

Everyone in the Yale community deserves a voice in how our community functions, including its employees. Democracy is sometimes messy and contentious, but it is our responsibility as Yale students and graduates to uphold its principles.

Yale’s unionized employees have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike to support the rights of their co-workers in the hospital and graduate school to assemble and speak. The News’ editors might disagree with them, but they should admire their commitment to these ideals. The News is very arrogant to imply that they know what is better for Yale employees than the employees themselves, who voted to take this action.

Francis Engler ’97

September 6, 2002