To the Editor:
Tuesday’s vote on graduate employee unionization at Cornell University puts into relief the Yale administration’s continuing intransigence. Yale President Richard Levin and the Yale administration have now ignored or declined four formal requests from the members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization to start a dialogue.
In his most recent letter to the coordinating committee of GESO, dated Oct. 14, President Levin reiterated his position that an NLRB-sponsored election is the only appropriate process for union recognition. At the same time, he has repeatedly indicated that he has no intention of respecting a ruling by the NLRB and would appeal GESO members’ employee status all the way to the Supreme Court. The only proposal from the administration, therefore, involves a multi-year court battle in which four separate government agencies would have to review our rights.
Furthermore, President Levin’s affirmation of the NLRB process is at best partial. Confronted with evidence of intimidation and unfair labor practices, his letter encourages us to pursue remedies through Yale’s administration, making no mention of protections guaranteed under federal labor law through the NLRB.
Finally, although President Levin opened his letter by stating his commitment to protecting free speech, he has failed to respond adequately to the recent arrests of two of our members (and six other workers) for attempting to communicate with their colleagues about the union. They now face charges of first degree criminal trespass and face up to a year in prison. President Levin needs to use the full weight of his positions as president of the University and as a trustee of the Yale-New Haven Hospital to get these charges dismissed.
The experience at New York University, and now at Cornell, where university administrations have demonstrated a willingness to negotiate, suggests a better alternative to the increasing tension and recriminations on our campus. GESO members remain committed to a negotiated solution that would allow graduate students to freely express their democratic right to join together in a union. There is still time for dialogue. Let’s not let the opportunity slip away.
Anita Seth GRD ’05
October 22, 2002
The writer is chair of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization.