Unhappy with the recent arrests of Yale union supporters, several protesters met President Richard Levin this weekend at alumni receptions in three midwestern cities.
Local members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, or HERE, and the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, stood outside receptions in Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit, Yale union leaders said. The union members distributed two leaflets that contended Yale officials violated free speech when union supporters were arrested or detained in the last two months.
HERE is the parent union of locals 34 and 35, which are currently negotiating contracts with Yale. SEIU includes a group closely aligned with locals 34 and 35 which is trying to unionize workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Antony Dugdale, a research analyst for the federation representing locals 34 and 35, said he had heard that there were approximately 50 protesters in Chicago on Sunday, 20 in Minneapolis on Monday and 10 in Detroit on Tuesday. Levin said approximately 20 people, including four Yale alumni, protested his appearance in Chicago and two or three showed up at the Minneapolis reception. He said he was uncertain how many protesters showed up at the Detroit event.
Levin said he was not surprised by the protests surrounding his appearances, given that the University and locals 34 and 35 have been negotiating for new contracts since February.
“This is something that happens in contract years,” he said.
In early September, Yale-New Haven Hospital police arrested four members of Local 34, Yale’s clerical and technical workers union, who were distributing leaflets outside a hospital building. A week later, two more Local 34 members and two members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization were arrested for distributing information outside the Yale Cancer Center.
Both leaflets distributed at the alumni events read “Now is the time for change” and featured pictures of two individuals who claimed that their free speech rights were compromised by Yale, Dugdale said.
Union spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff said many alumni attending the receptions had not heard anything about the labor issues at Yale and were very surprised about the arrests. She said it was important for them to know about the current situation at their alma mater.
“Given the many public statements that President Levin has made about the importance of free speech on college campuses, it’s of course an issue for alumni,” Chernoff said.
Union leaders criticized Yale for not condemning the arrests. University officials have long maintained that the University and the hospital are separate institutions and thus the University is not responsible for the arrests.
GESO has been trying to form a graduate teaching and research assistant union at Yale for over a decade. Yale leaders have held that graduate students are not employees and do not have the right to organize.
Union leaders filed a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on Oct. 28, alleging that administrators at Yale-New Haven Hospital violated federal labor laws by arresting the eight employees and graduate students.