Amidst increasingly contentious labor negotiations between Yale and its two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, the Yale Religious Ministry and the University Chaplain’s Office held a silent walk Tuesday to demonstrate support for the negotiation process and those affected by it.
University Chaplain Frederick Streets DIV ’75 participated in the 30-minute walk by reading a prepared statement at Dwight Chapel, Woodbridge Hall and the union offices. Approximately 15 people, including representatives for both the University and the unions, participated in the event and walked to each of the locations in silence.
The nondenominational walk was also strictly nonpartisan. Associate University Chaplain Cynthia Terry said that the Religious Ministry wanted to encourage both sides of the labor issue to find a solution to the dispute.
“We want to continue to draw attention to the fact that there is a process of negotiating,” Terry said. “There are many people who are supportive of the whole process without being on one side or another.”
Carolina Oster ’05, the sole undergraduate participant, attributed the lack of student participation to the narrowness of the walk’s focus.
“It speaks to a certain lack of courage to have the statement be as neutral as it was,” said Oster, who was arrested Sept. 25 at a demonstration in support of the unions. “Events like this should be important to anybody because they are a chance for people who disagree about what it means to have a good contract to come together and try to live the peace and community that we want to see happen.”
Michael Boyle, a Local 34 negotiator and staff attorney for the Federation of Hospital and University Employees, said that he appreciated the goals of the walk at a time of high tension in the negotiation process.
“The more attention that is focused on negotiations — the more likely it will be that there will ultimately be a positive resolution,” Boyle said. “Certainly the environment is very contentious now — we are coming up to a critical point and our members have voted to strike. It’s important that people pay attention to what’s going on now.”
Brian Tunney, director of labor relations and chief negotiator for the University, said he also supported what the walk was trying to accomplish.
“While the walk is unusual, why wouldn’t we want to be in favor of progress for these negotiations?” Tunney said. “I thank the [Yale Religious] Ministry for the symbolic gesture and I hope it works.”
Terry said she thought the walk was successful despite the small turnout.
“The power of walking silently with other people to stand for something that we believe in was good,” Terry said.
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