Allegra Leitner ’06 was watching television in a friend’s room when a pair of students knocked on the door and began talking to her and her friends about labor relations on campus. After a brief conversation, the pair — members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee — gave Leitner and her friends fliers and asked them to sign a petition.
Over the past week, UOC members have been visiting suites on campus as part of an “informal education campaign” to engage students in discussions about labor issues. The UOC plans to continue the campaign through next week, UOC member Katie Kline ’03 said. So far, UOC members have visited a number of entryways in some residential colleges, on Old Campus and in Swing Space.
Kline said she hopes the campaign will begin conversations about labor issues on campus. She said she has found that while many students do not know much about the subject, they would like to learn.
“I’ve found that once I begin conversations, people are receptive and willing to hear me out,” she said.
Yale and its unions, locals 34 and 35, have been negotiating new contracts for nearly 4,000 workers since last February. Talks have stalled in recent months as the two sides have clashed over wages, benefits and other non-economic issues.
The University and its unions have a historically contentious relationship, with seven of the last ten rounds of negotiations resulting in strikes.
Leitner said she supports the UOC’s efforts to educate students about unions.
“They’re getting the information out, which is good,” she said.
Kline said the UOC members have also been talking to students about the organizing efforts of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization. The UOC members have asked students whether they would be willing to sign a petition asking the Yale administration to negotiate a fair process of union recognition for GESO.
Nicholas Evans ’05 said when the UOC members came to his room last week, he felt pressured to sign their petition because they warned him about the strong possibility of a GESO strike.
“They tried to scare me into signing it,” Evans said.
But UOC member Will Tanzman ’04 said the primary objective of the campaign is to inform students about issues related to Yale’s unions and its affiliated groups, not necessarily to collect student signatures.
“The petition’s sort of one goal, but the main goal is to talk to people,” he said.
The UOC has handed out fliers that ask “What will Yale look like this semester?” The fliers suggest that Yale President Richard Levin might force GESO members to strike because he is “too stubborn” to talk to the group.
Union negotiators attempted to bring up the issue of union growth at negotiations last week. University negotiators maintained that they would not discuss the organizing drives of GESO and workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
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