Chanting “no contracts, no peace” and holding signs depicting two-faced images of Yale President Richard Levin, approximately 1,500 union members gathered outside Levin’s office Thursday to deliver a petition supporting union concerns.
Members of Local 34, which represents more than 2,800 clerical and technical workers, held a rally outside Levin’s Woodbridge Hall office at noon Thursday. The event, which union leaders said was the largest daytime action in the union’s history, included speeches by Local 34 President Laura Smith and union members Alexis Flint and Tony Lopes.
Union leaders also brought a black folder containing petitions signed by more than 1,500 Local 34 members. The letters asked Levin to “end Yale’s shameful tradition of making a struggle so hard for decent contracts” and said that if Levin did not deliver on his promise for change, the unions would stand together in a campuswide job action.
Because Levin was unavailable to take the letters, Assistant to the President Nina Glickson took them and said she would make sure Levin received them.
The rally took place as Yale and its two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, continue contract talks. Negotiations began in February, after contracts expired in January. Full-table bargaining sessions have not been held since early October, and no sessions are currently scheduled.
The event was the latest in a string of union efforts to appeal directly to Levin for a dialogue with the unions. Union supporters distributed leaflets about the labor situation at Yale at four separate alumni receptions where Levin spoke earlier this month.
The executive board of Local 35, which represents nearly 1,100 service and maintenance workers, also visited Levin’s office on Wednesday to invite him to a membership meeting next week, Local 35 President Bob Proto said. Levin was out of the office when the Local 35 leaders arrived. He said he planned to respond to their request.
Levin said that because he thinks both sides want to resume bargaining sessions, he is hopeful that a contract could be determined by Christmas.
“We’ve made it clear that we’re willing to sit down and negotiate,” he said. “Hopefully, union leaders are willing to do the same.”
Union spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff said Local 34 is traditionally seen as the “less militant” union and that Thursday’s demonstration was intended to give Local 34 members a chance to speak directly to Levin.
Smith welcomed the workers, who had walked or taken buses to Beinecke Plaza. Referring to Yale’s contentious labor history, she said that the unions had been very hopeful at the start of this year’s negotiations about building a new model of labor relations.
Smith said she was disappointed by the fact that Levin has not fulfilled his promise of a partnership between the University and its unions.
“President Levin — you promised us a true partnership here at Yale and a future free from the struggles of our past,” she said. “Now, in order to sit down and negotiate a fair settlement on the issues, you are forcing us to fight again.”
Flint, who has worked as an administrative assistant for 23 years, said Levin should recognize the motto of the University.
“You have a responsibility to uphold Lux Et Veritas, Light and Truth, by being true to your word,” she said. “If, as you claim, the clerical and technical workers are truly the backbone of this University, respect us as such.”
Lopes said he was unhappy with the current wages, pensions and the fact that many Local 34 members are forced to work multiple jobs to pay bills. He said he hoped Levin would take action and instruct Yale negotiators to return to the bargaining table.
“We believed that this would be the end of the types of labor struggles that had gone on here at Yale for 60 years,” he said. “President Levin, it’s time that you make us believe.”
Local 34 member Maureen Malone Jones said she believes the two sides have been forced to resort to the bitter relations that have characterized past negotiations because the University has not changed its way of dealing with the unions.
“It’s like they wanted a partnership until they were told they had to share,” she said. “They wanted a partnership they could direct.”
Union members overwhelmingly voted to authorize union leaders to call job actions during votes Sept. 4. Leaders had planned a three-day strike in October, but have not held any job actions. No actions or strikes are currently planned, union members said.