To the Editor:

In response to mischaracterizations in some recent media accounts, we would like to clarify our position regarding new organizing efforts at Yale.

Our position is that Yale should sit down with its hospital workers and graduate teachers and have open-ended discussions, leading towards some agreement that would allow these employees to decide, in an atmosphere free from fear, coercion, or intimidation, whether or not to be represented by a union.

The Yale Daily News has characterized our position as support for “a process by which the University would agree not to express any opinion on the issue of unionization” (9/12). Some employers have indeed agreed to neutrality in this form. However, as pointed out by last semester’s report “When Bad Labor Relations Go Good,” issued by the Yale Law School’s Workers Rights Project, other neutrality agreements have taken other forms.

The one foundation for a neutrality agreement is that it be a voluntary agreement, between the employer and the union, designed to reduce the elements of fear, coercion, and intimidation that might otherwise take hold during an organizing campaign. The recent arrests at Yale make clear the impossibility of a fair election without such an agreement in place. Yale President Richard Levin and hospital CEO Joseph Zaccagnino, on the other hand, have categorically refused to discuss any alternatives to the NLRB.

The first recommendation made by Yale’s labor consultant states that the administration and the union have an “immediate” need to come to “some understanding as to how current organizing efforts will be conducted.” We believe that conversation is a necessary first step towards achieving such an understanding.

Bob Proto, Laura Smith, Anita Seth and Jerry Brown

September 20, 2002

The respective writers are the president of Local 35, president of Local 34, chair of GESO, and president of District 1199NE/SEIU.