The Graduate Employees and Students Organization will determine in a strike vote Wednesday afternoon whether teaching and research assistants strike in early March.
During a strike, TAs would not hold sections, attend classes or conduct research in Yale buildings, GESO leaders said. The vote will come a week after Yale’s two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, announced they would cancel their contracts March 1, opening up the possibility of a strike next month. Union members have hinted at the strong possibility of a job action on March 3.
In the event of a strike, GESO and the recognized unions would strike together, GESO chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said.
GESO secretary-treasurer Stefan Miller GRD ’06 said GESO leaders have tried to engage in an “open dialogue” with members of the group to ease their anxieties about the possibility of a strike.
“Nobody wants to go out and miss the type of work it is that they do,” he said. “But in order for the strike to be meaningful, there has to be something at stake.”
Miller said he is “very optimistic” about the turnout at Wednesday’s meeting and about a positive vote for a strike.
Graduate School Dean Peter Salovey said he is concerned when GESO or anyone else threatens the educational mission of the University.
“It can’t be a good thing to contemplate a university that is not running on full cylinders,” he said.
Seth said the University has forced GESO to consider the strike.
“I think it’s really unfortunate that we’re having a strike vote at all,” Seth said.
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.
GESO is closely aligned with locals 34 and 35, which represent nearly 4,000 clerical, technical, maintenance and service workers.
Yale and its unions have been negotiating contracts since last February. Talks have stalled recently, as negotiators have clashed over wages, benefits and noneconomic issues. GESO issues are not legally connected with the contracts for locals 34 and 35, but the dispute over recognition for GESO has been a major stumbling block between Yale and the unions.
Salovey said he hopes graduate students representing a variety of opinions will attend the strike vote.
“I know from talking to students that there are many different opinions on what graduate students should do,” Salovey said.
Former GESO member Shou-chih Yen GRD ’04 said he does not think Wednesday’s vote will reflect accurately the opinions of all graduate students.
“They tell undergraduates that they represent all graduate students, but they only represent themselves,” Yen said.
Because the exact number of GESO members is unclear, Yen said it is not possible to determine what percentage of GESO members actually turn out to vote on Wednesday.
“The majority may just not go,” Yen said.
As a result, he said, the outcome of the vote might not be representative.
Political Science chairman Ian Shapiro said he was not sure political science graduate students would go on strike.
“I hope that they won’t go on strike,” Shapiro said. “I don’t think it will advance their causes.”
He said he would continue to teach and would cross picket lines.
“It’s simply impossible to teach classes of this size and magnitude off campus,” Shapiro said.
But Steven Starr ’05 said John Faragher, his professor for “The American West,” told the class he would not cross picket lines. He said Faragher moved the midterm for the class ahead one week to accommodate a possible strike by GESO and the unions during the first week of March.
“He wanted us to be cognizant that something might happen,” Starr said. “He didn’t want us to be inconvenienced.”
GESO leaders said in September that its members might strike this fall if the University did not hold discussions with them. Union negotiators attempted to bring up the issue of union growth at negotiations two weeks ago. But Yale negotiators continued to maintain that they would not discuss the organizing drives of GESO and workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital.