Members of the Yale Police Department, who have been monitoring labor rallies for the past two weeks, have gone without a contract themselves for over a year and could soon be walking picket lines as well.
The Yale Police Benevolent Association, or YPBA, which represents 55 Yale police officers, has been renewing its contract on a monthly basis since it expired 14 months ago. If the contract is cancelled by either Yale or the YPBA, job actions, including a strike, are possible.
The contract is extended every month automatically and either side may give 15 days notice before cancelling the extension. The parties barely avoided a strike during the last round of contract negotiations, which lasted two and a half years and ended in 1998.
Yale Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said Yale made a proposal in the last negotiating session on May 9. The proposal offered an increase in salary which Highsmith said would keep YPD salaries competitive with those of the the New Haven Police Department. YPD salaries currently range from $40,000 to $50,000. The YPBA rejected that offer May 23, calling it “an insult” in a press release.
“We’ve tried to bring [YPD wages] into the realm of real police department wages,” YPBA chief stewart Christopher Morganti said. “The trick is to keep people and that’s what we’re not able to do right now.”
Other issues include pensions, benefits, and job security.
“Right now the chief can suspend you right off the bat,” Morganti said. “That’s really hard. We’ve had two or three people terminated.”
Over the summer, Yale enlisted the help of Joseph Dubin, a federal mediator who previously tried to moderate contact negotiations between Yale and locals 34 and 35. Highsmith said Yale representatives met with Dubin in July.
“I think we’re hopeful that with the mediator’s help we can get a great contract for an outstanding police force,” Highsmith said.
The YPBA has not yet met with Dubin and cannot until he returns from vacation Sept.15.
“We’re going to try to get some meetings with him,” Morganti said. “It’s going to be difficult seeing the hours they’ve got us working for the strike.”
In 1998, during the last renegotiation, Yale police staged a “blue flu”, in which 95 percent of the officers scheduled to work called in sick. Another option, Morganti said, is a “speed-up” in which police use their discretionary power to give out as many tickets as possible. In a similar action during the last string of negotiations, police gave out $4,000 in tickets in a single day.
Morganti said it was strange to be stationed at labor rallies every day while the police force was going through its own negotiations with Yale.
“We do have our orders and they are to remain neutral,” Morganti said. “We have to protect the rights of the strikers and the school.”
Still, Morganti said, he does relate to the cause of locals 34 and 35. Local 35 president Bob Proto said the police deserved better pay and benefits, especially considering the added pressure of the strike.
“It’s just sad, it just seems like the norm that folks have to struggle for a long time to make any improvement,” Proto said. “If the University police need any help at all, all they need to do is call us.”