The Graduate Employees and Students Organization filed unfair labor practice charges against Yale with the National Labor Relations Board Tuesday.
The charges stemmed from three separate incidents in which faculty members allegedly “harassed” GESO members who were talking about unionization issues. GESO filed the charges last Thursday after sending a letter to Yale President Richard Levin. In the letter, GESO asked Levin to issue a public statement condemning the actions of the faculty members who allegedly threatened free speech. The organization also demanded that Levin assure graduate students of their right to organize.
The letter said that if Levin did not respond this week, GESO would file NLRB charges. Levin has not contacted GESO since the group sent the letter.
GESO chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said she is disappointed that Levin has not taken any action on the issue.
“I think it’s a real sign of disrespect for faculty and students both that he would not step in to try to resolve this issue,” she said.
Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the University tries to protect the free speech of everyone on campus and will cooperate with the NLRB’s investigation of GESO’s charges.
“The University has a very good track record with the NLRB in this matter,” he said. “I don’t know that [GESO has] ever filed charges that have been upheld.”
The charges outlined three incidents involving faculty members who allegedly threatened GESO members who were engaging in union-related discussions. In one alleged incident, a professor threatened to throw out any student who participated in a strike. GESO members also alleged that another professor “expelled” graduates from his laboratory while talking about a union. In another alleged case, a professor told students they could not talk about union business in his lab.
Seth said she believed Yale officials needed to better clarify University policy regarding free speech to members of the community.
“This administration has not been clear enough in notifying faculty about the law and notifying students of their rights,” she said.
Thursday’s letter was the latest in a series of correspondences between GESO and Levin. Seth said the letter responded to Levin’s Oct. 14 letter urging the group to bring forth to the dean or the provost any cases in which a graduate student felt that he or she had been subjected to improper behavior by a faculty member.
Yale Provost Alison Richard declined to comment. Levin was out of town Tuesday.
GESO has been trying to organize graduate teaching and research assistants for over a decade but has not requested a formal election. University administrators have opposed unionization, maintaining that graduate students are not employees.