In a move that could pave the way for strikes or other job actions, the president of one of Yale’s unions said he will recommend cancelling union contracts when they come up for review this week.
Local 35 President Bob Proto said Monday he remained hopeful that a strike would not be necessary, but said he would urge union negotiators to cancel the contracts, which prohibit strikes or other job actions. Proto said union leaders will announce their final decision Wednesday.
“I am absolutely going to recommend that we cancel our contracts,” Proto said. “We are absolutely prepared to go on strike if need be but we remain hopeful that we can have some more fruitful bargaining sessions with key decision makers.”
The unions’ decision over contracts will come as union members and supporters prepare for a possible strike by locals 34 and 35, the University’s two largest unions, and the Graduate Employees and Students Organization.
Yale President Richard Levin declined to comment.
The University and locals 34 and 35 have been negotiating new contracts for nearly 4,000 workers since last February. Negotiators on both sides have clashed in recent months over wages, benefits and other non-economic issues.
For the last year, the two sides have renewed contracts for the largest unions, locals 34 and 35, on a monthly basis. The contracts are renewed automatically unless one side opts to cancel them 15 days before the end of the month. The contracts contain “no strike, no lockout” clauses that prohibit job actions while the contracts are in effect. The contracts are currently effective through March 1, and will continue through April unless either side cancels contracts by Thursday.
Locals 34 and 35 represent Yale’s clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers.
Proto said University administrators have put union members in a position to strike by not sending decision makers like Levin to the bargaining table. In the past, Levin has said he places full trust in Brian Tunney, Yale’s director of labor relations and chief negotiator.
Members of the Yale community are also preparing for the possibility of job actions by the unions and GESO.
GESO member Kate Bredeson GRD ’05 said she is optimistic that members of the community will pay attention to GESO’s message if its members decide to hold a strike.
“I think that if GESO goes on strike with the other unions, that will be huge,” she said. “I feel positive about it.”
Several teaching assistants have suggested that GESO may hold a strike this spring.
Mike Dunham ’06 said that GESO member Daniel Mulino GRD ’06, his TA for an economics class, told his section that there would likely be a strike the weeks before and after spring break. Dunham said Mulino told students that he intended to participate in a strike if it occurred, and would not hold sections for those two weeks.
“It was mostly so we’d be prepared,” Dunham said.
Mulino could not be reached for comment.
Josh Eidelson ’06, a spokesperson for the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, said members of the UOC have talked to other students about the implications of a strike.
“Should a strike hit this campus next month, it would mean an array of difficult decisions a student would have to make,” he said.
He said UOC members have talked to students in dining halls and in their individual residential colleges about issues in this round of negotiations and have brought up the strong likelihood of a job action.
“I think a strike is looking more and more likely,” he said. “We’re just preparing students for the possibility.”
Eidelson said the UOC is also planning a “mobilization” on Beinecke Plaza for 12:30 p.m. next Thursday.
Union members overwhelmingly voted to authorize union leaders to call job actions during votes Sept. 4. Leaders had originally planned a three-day strike for last fall, but have not held any job actions to date.