Banging on pans, shaking noisemakers and chanting slogans, hundreds of striking union members rallied Wednesday night outside Yale President Richard Levin’s house and in front of the newly renovated Sprague Hall.
Yale and its unions also held a private meeting at New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s office Wednesday but did not make any significant progress as the strike stretched into its ninth day. DeStefano said a rift still exists between the two sides because of a mutual mistrust, which he said has been a major sticking point in negotiations.
“If you had asked me yesterday, I might have said pensions,” DeStefano said. “Today, I really think that its the history of not being able to trust each other and not being to see the common interest in each other’s well-being.”
The rally at Levin’s house on Hillhouse Avenue drew a crowd of approximately 450 to 500 union members who said they were hoping Levin would emerge and talk to them. An hour and a half later, at 7:00 p.m., 150 to 200 workers demonstrated outside an event at the newly-renovated Sprague Hall. The protesters said they were disappointed Yale decided to hire non-union workers. Both rallies lasted approximately one hour.
The “GESO Band,” a group of Graduate Employees and Students Organization members with trumpets and drums, played outside Levin’s house around 6:00 p.m., while union members sang “We’re not going to take it anymore.” After seeing a face peek through the window from the house, workers began shouting for Levin to come outside and talk to striking union members.
School of Music Operations Manager Tara Deming said Sprague Hall staff members dealt with the disruption to the best of their abilities.
“We seemed to weather it OK,” Deming said. “All of our patrons are in and everybody seems to be happy.”
University spokesman Tom Conroy said the demonstrations will not necessarily help the unions achieve their contract goals.
“[The rallies] don’t bring us any closer to a contract agreement,” Conroy said. “That only occurs with negotiations at the bargaining table.”
But many union members said they felt active participation on picket lines was the only way to speak out to the administration.
Betty Lattanzi, a senior administrative assistant in the Graduate School who picketed on Hillhouse Avenue, said union members would rather be working than striking.
“We should not have to do this to win a fair contract from the most liberal university in the world,” Lattanzi said.
The rallies took place on the ninth day of a strike by locals 34 and 35, which represent nearly 4,000 clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers. Both Yale and the unions have said they cannot predict the length of the strike.
Yet Local 34 President Laura Smith said she believed DeStefano’s involvement has been “enormously helpful” in bringing the two sides together.
“He’s helping us very much to keep the lines of communication open,” she said.
Smith said though the two sides have not planned any more sessions, Yale and union negotiators are coordinating their schedules so they can meet again soon.
–Staff reporter Jacob Leibenluft contributed to this story.