As union leaders prepare for a day of civil disobedience on Sept. 25, about 30 students are showing their support of Yale’s unions today by encouraging other students to join them in what they called a hunger strike.
As part of their effort to educate Yale students about labor issues and encourage them to get involved with the union cause, the students will pass out leaflets in the dining hall and not eat dining hall food.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said that each hunger striker will make a personal choice about whether to eat other food during the day.
Yale President Richard Levin declined to comment about the hunger strike or the day of civil disobedience.
Last night, about 30 students attended an information session at La Casa Cultural and kicked off the hunger strike. The meeting featured members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization and locals 34 and 35 discussing labor relations and sharing their opinions and experiences.
Students who attended the session at La Casa showed their support for the union side by filling out cards with personal information to expedite their arrests at Wednesday’s act of civil disobedience, which union leaders said will be one of the largest in Connecticut history. In addition to fasting today, many students will participate in a civil disobedience training session this afternoon.
On Wednesday union supporters plan to block traffic near campus and get arrested. The unions have circulated packets containing information on what to do when arrested and who should consider not getting arrested.
The discussion at La Casa, which was organized by Chiraag Bains ’03, Shonu Gandhi ’03 and Healey, was held amid rising tensions between the University and its unions as the two sides attempt to negotiate new contracts.
“We’re here to get pumped up,” Healey said.
Evan Cobb GRD ’07, who has been organizing for GESO since June, told students that they should participate in Wednesday’s event.
“I think it’s important to stand up and be heard,” he said.
Members of Yale’s two unions agreed.
Virginia Harris, a member of the executive committee of Local 34 and an editorial assistant in the Chemistry Department, said she came to Yale three and a half years ago to be in a setting where she could continue her education while advancing her career.
“I was shocked when I learned that there was no budget in the Chemistry Department for training [of employees],” Harris said.
She added that many of her colleagues on Science Hill have had to go out and find second or third jobs to make ends meet.
Meg Riccio, the chief steward of Local 35, said many people on the union side are very angry with the University.
“One of the reasons I’m committed to getting arrested is that Yale doesn’t always tell the truth,” Riccio said.
Harris said she thinks it is unforgivable that union members and supporters must get arrested to settle a reasonable contract. Still, she said that she thinks it is important to fight for her cause on Wednesday.
“No one is willing to let this moment pass,” she said.