The federal mediator Yale called in last week to monitor labor negotiations will meet with union leaders Thursday rather than working with both sides today as originally planned.
Yale’s leaders announced last week that Joseph Dubin, a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service would moderate contract talks between Yale and its two largest unions, locals 34 and 35. Union leaders said they would prefer talks to continue with John Stepp, a labor-management consultant who began negotiations, rather than with Dubin.
Yale and the unions began contract talks in February with Stepp’s assistance, but in recent months negotiations have slowed. Stepp left the negotiations in May, before the two sides began discussing economic issues.
University spokesman Tom Conroy said the two groups will begin negotiating again with Dubin present next week.
Federal mediators have been involved in past negotiations at Yale. This is the first negotiation in which John Stepp’s Washington, D.C.-based firm, Restructuring Associates Inc., has been involved in labor discussions.
Dubin said he is familiar with the conflicts that have slowed contract talks.
“I’m in touch with [the issues], though I’m not at the table,” Dubin said.
Local 35 President Bob Proto said that although union leaders will be talking to Dubin tomorrow, he is still hopeful that University leaders will bring back Stepp.
“I would imagine [tomorrow’s meeting] is just to get acquainted,” Proto said. “It’s basically a briefing on what’s going on.”
Conroy said he hopes that after Dubin’s meeting with union leaders, negotiations can resume under federal mediation.
“Our goal is to begin daily negotiations with the participation of the mediator,” he said. “There is certainly no downside to having a mediator participate.”
Conroy said Yale leaders called for the mediator because of the lack of progress on economic issues.
“We want to get negotiations to resume productively,” Conroy said.
But Proto said he thinks federal mediators have not proven effective in the past at Yale. He said he believes the major problem in recent negotiations has been a lack of leadership among University negotiators.
“What happens here is that we go through this ritual of the University sending in folks who have no decision-making ability,” he said.
Proto said that Stepp was preferable because he is familiar with the issues.
“It’s sort of strange that we have a mediator that is a call away that has a good understanding of the issues,” he said.
Stepp did not return phone calls or respond to e-mail this week.
Conroy said that the University is not bringing back Stepp or RAI because the firm has already fulfilled its role.
“RAI was engaged to train us in interest-based negotiations,” Conroy said. “RAI wasn’t part of economic negotiations.”