The unions are lying. They have no interest in negotiations, let alone a fruitful dialogue with the University. Bob Proto and his followers want their demands filled and will stoop to any low to achieve their goal.
Case in point, the upcoming day of civil disobedience and “witness.” Tomorrow at 5:30, union types and a few activist undergraduates will rally on the corner of College and Elm streets to block traffic and demand that their “rights be acknowledged.”
Certain members of the community will choose to be arrested, while others will merely witness the action.
They plan on horrifying New Haven by showing what happens when people break the law. They get arrested. Shocking, really.
Most galling about the plans for the day are the advertisements currently plastered around campus. Citing the writings of Martin Luther King Jr., the unions liken themselves to King when he wrote in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Yet King used civil disobedience against laws that oppressed an entire race of people; the unions are upset merely over their contracts. Because they are not receiving their demands, they feel law-breaking is in order.
King’s justification for civil disobedience went as follows: “In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”
But what unjust law are the unions protesting?
No law condemns the unions. In fact, the University has publicly stated that it will recognize new union under the rules of the National Labor Relations Board. The secret ballot, however, is not enough for organizers. They demand more, so they turn to confrontation, not cooperation. But yesterday’s letter in the Yale Daily News (“Yale must negotiate with hospital workers, graduate students,” 9/23), signed by Bob Proto, Laura Smith, Anita Seth and Jerry Brown, took a different tone. They called on Yale to negotiate as the Graduate Employees and Students Organization and workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital seek recognition. They wrote, “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.”
What remarkable hypocrisy from the people who plan on blocking traffic this Wednesday. To combat the supposed cruelty of the University, the unions and their undergraduate and graduate supporters will violate the laws of the city of New Haven. They have resorted to scare tactics to satisfy their demands. But the unions do not hate the laws of the city, but the decisions of the University. They are circumventing dialogue in favor of an emotional appeal.
They malign civil disobedience by making that noble form of protest into a pageant for self-righteous Yalies.
Proto and his lemmings ought to stand by their word and actually negotiate with the University, instead of making this adolescent emotional appeal on Wednesday.
It is a sad, though expected, day when Yale’s social justice network has lost its sense of what justice truly is. King fought to change unjust laws; the unions fight for more money. Anyone who respects King’s memory should not participate in Wednesday’s mockery of his legacy.
Justin Zaremby is a senior in Calhoun College. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.