For me, this issue has not been about whether I agree with the unions. The past record of Yale’s relationship with its unions is almost enough for me to side with the labor groups. The issue is whether I, as a student, believe that joining union members and getting arrested tomorrow is the right thing to do.
To my understanding, civil disobedience is an event where individuals non-violently commit a crime against laws they deem to be unjust. The most important part of the act is the sacrifice. Law-breakers at tomorrow’s rally are going to sacrifice something to get arrested. Some may sacrifice time at work or risk receiving a criminal record.
But of the roughly 4,000 union members, I’ve heard only 500 who have committed to getting arrested. That’s one out of eight. I’ve also spoken with about 35 members of Local 35. About 25 of them had forgotten about the civil disobedience and were reminded by my asking them about it. Five were entirely unaware of its existence. And five told me why they weren’t going to take part. Not one said they would get arrested. Perhaps my sample size was too small.
I support the union members in their attempts to get livable wage and pension increases, in the fight to allow hospital union members to unionize, and in their decision to strike, if it comes to that. But I, as a student, will not allow myself to be potentially used as a pawn in a “civil disobedience” that a large majority of the union members themselves — who are organizing the civil disobedience and are supposed to benefit from it — are not willing to take part in.
If the members refuse to make a sacrifice like leaving work early, potentially getting reprimanded for it, or, for a small minority, having legal repercussions, then is it fair to ask a student to make any sacrifice on their behalf? How can I support an event in which 87.5 percent of the people whom it is supposed to help are not willing to take that risk? Nonetheless, I will be there on the sidewalk, watching, witnessing and supporting those who have decided to take part in the event.
Neheet Trivedi is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College.