To the Editor:

How dare Keith Urbahn suggest in his column (“Earth to GESO: Efforts to unionize are a lost cause,” 1/12) that racial discrimination at Yale is only “tangentially related” to the missions of our unions? For years, Yale’s increasing use of casual workers hurt black and Latino workers more than anyone else. Our union fought to stop this abuse, and we demand that Yale provides everyone with equal opportunity regardless of the color of their skin. So when Yale’s graduate teachers see the same thing happening in the classroom — Yale hiring more and more women and people of color into “casual” teaching positions while reserving the good tenured jobs for white men — then it’s natural that they would turn to Local 35 to learn how to fix the problem. Stick together. Stand strong. That’s how you get Yale’s attention.

Local 35 never had an NLRB election. We fought and forced Yale to agree to a fair process, so that the workers that wanted the union got the union. Then, we didn’t stop supporting the unionization of Yale’s clerical workers just because they lost two union elections during the 1970s. In 1983, they won a squeaker election and then went on strike. We respected their picket line, and together we won excellent contracts, reducing the gender pay gap by raising wages for what was considered “women’s work.” We have learned never to turn our backs on any group of workers, and we’ll never forget that lesson. That’s why we’ll continue supporting our brothers and sisters in GESO, who walked our picket lines and stood with us in our struggles. No Bush administration anti-worker NLRB decision is going to stop us — in fact, if Bush is against them, I have to be for them! GESO is stronger than ever, and we are proud to stand and demand the end of discrimination from Yale’s dining halls to Yale’s classrooms. Perhaps, as Mr. Urbahn matures, he too will come to understand these values.

Robert Proto

Jan. 13, 2005

The writer is the president of Local 35.