Standing on a picket line outside Ingalls Rink Wednesday morning, custodian Michael Aponte said he is relying on income from his second job at a local hospital to get through the strike.
“I’m used to having two incomes to pay the bills,” Aponte said. “We’ve just been trying to get more incomes, but it’s hard without the two.”
Gregory Sutton, who stood next to Aponte on the picket line, said most workers he knows haven’t had to use the union’s hardship funds yet since the strike just began. Some are like Joan Hunt, a Local 34 member who said she prepared ahead of time for the loss of income during the strike.
“I’ve planned for this in advance and am cutting back on what you might call unnecessary expenses,” Hunt said.
The three were among over 2,000 Yale workers who began a second week on strike Wednesday with no clear sign of how long they will remain on picket lines. Union leaders have said the strike could last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on whether they receive satisfactory contract offers from the University.
Yale leaders maintained that their contract offers are fair, pointing to the number of union members who are still working during the strike.
Many striking workers said it has been difficult to be on strike with no set end date, and without their regular incomes.
Although some union members said their $150 a week in picket pay is not enough to make ends meet, others said support from the community has made the hardship tolerable.
Physical plant employee Bob Schilling, who has worked at Yale for 34 years, said he has seen more support from the community during this strike than in any other walkout. He said expects workers will stay on strike until their demands are met.
“If the past repeats itself, we’ll probably be out here anywhere from six to 13 weeks,” Schilling said. “I’m not optimistic about it being a short strike.”
The strike is the ninth job action in the last 11 rounds of contract talks. Union members held a five-day walkout in March with some graduate students and unionized workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Local 34 member Edward Hutnik said what distinguishes this job action from the two other walkouts he has participated in during his 15 years at Yale is the enthusiasm of striking members.
“The optimism on the lines is amazing,” Hutnik said. “Morale is high, but that doesn’t mean we want to stay out.”
Local 34 member Victorine Shepard said she does not know how long the strike will last. But she said it is crucial that union members continue fighting to keep the unions strong.
“More importantly than time, I think this is a make or break one,” Shepard said. “We win a contract, or we lose a union.”
University and union negotiators held a private meeting with New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. in his office Wednesday morning. The two sides will meet again with the mayor today.
— Staff reporter Stephen Butler contributed to this story.