Approximately 50 union members and supporters, many of them working mothers, gathered in Woolsey Hall Thursday afternoon to confront Yale Corporation Fellow Linda Mason SOM ’80, the author of a recent book about working mothers.
Mason was attending a reception in honor of her recently published book “The Working Mother’s Guide to Life.” Mason is in New Haven this weekend for a meeting of the Corporation, the University’s highest decision-making body. Union members and supporters distributed leaflets after the event asking Mason to support working mothers.
Mason’s visit came as Yale and its two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, continue negotiating new contracts. Contracts expired last January and have been renewed on a monthly basis since then. Workers have not received annual pay raises because contracts have not been settled.
Locals 34 and 35 represent nearly 4,000 clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers.
Local 34 President Laura Smith said she attended the reception to voice the concerns of mothers who must balance their jobs with family life. She said she hoped Mason could use her position as a Corporation member to address issues facing working mothers at Yale.
“She clearly has a feel for what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace,” she said. “We would hope she would be approachable on the subject.”
Many of the union members attended the reception with their children.
Virginia Harris, a member of the Local 34 executive board, brought her 9-year-old daughter.
Harris said she spoke briefly to Mason and told her how Yale’s working mothers are “struggling everyday.”
She said that though Mason’s book might suggest solutions for childcare, the University’s working mothers often do not have access to these options.
“We can’t afford the kind of programs that she describes,” Harris said.
Members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization and hospital workers also came to talk to Mason about unionization. Both groups have been trying to organize and have asked the University to negotiate fair processes for union recognition.
Yale administrators have opposed unionization efforts by GESO based on the claim that graduate students are not employees. University leaders have also maintained that Yale does not control the hospital because it is separate from the University.
Linda Hines, a worker at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said she spoke to Mason, and said Mason thanked her for bringing the issue to her attention.
A number of undergraduates also leafleted at the reception in support of Yale’s unions.
Alek Felstiner ’04 said he came to Woolsey hoping to ask Mason some questions. Though he did not get to talk to her directly, he said he hoped she would talk to other Corporation members this weekend about concerns of the working mothers she met.
“We want to make sure that she knows that working mothers at Yale are fighting for dignity and respect,” he said.
Yale and union negotiators have held regular bargaining sessions since early January. Negotiations have stalled recently as the two sides continue to disagree on wages, benefits and other non-economic issues. Contracts are currently effective through March 1, and will continue through April if neither side cancels contracts by the end of next week.
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