Members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee met with Vice President of the Office of New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander on Tuesday night to discuss reports that Yale-New Haven Hospital has been intimidating workers over an upcoming unionization vote.
Students said the allegations included reports of misleading literature suggesting that unionization would lead to loss of job security and benefits, as well as mandatory worker meetings and one-on-one meetings between workers and supervisors to discuss unionization, all of which are prohibited by a neutrality agreement that hospital and union officials signed last April. The agreement was intended to ensure that the vote on whether or not to unionize — scheduled to take place over two days on Dec. 20 and 21 — would not be influenced by hospital management or union representatives.
On Monday, the hospital administration denied that it violated the agreement. Pro-union organizers have themselves been cited for illegitimate campaign tactics.
Alexander, who played a key role in negotiating the April agreement, declined to comment on Tuesday.
UOC member Erica Stern ’07 said the meeting went well and that Alexander seemed very concerned with the issues discussed.
“This is a really critical time with the election only two weeks away, and we met with [Alexander] in the hopes that he will intervene in what’s going on,” she said. “We are hopeful that he will take some action, and we look forward to seeing what that will be.”
UOC members have lobbied the hospital previously for fair contracts and organizing rights for workers, and they have also previously criticized the University administration for failing to uphold hospital workers’ rights.
Stern said Alexander was already aware of the problems that had been occurring, and that the meeting focused on how the University could defuse tensions at the hospital.
“Bruce Alexander was instrumental in orchestrating the community benefits agreement that happened last spring at the hospital, and we asked him to call the union and the hospital back to the table to go over that agreement and review what each side needs to do in the coming weeks to live up to their promises,” Stern said.
UOC member Troy Schuler ’09 said he thinks Alexander has the credibility necessary to bring all involved parties together.
“If there are violations, they have the greatest effect now in the run-up to the elections,” Schuler said. “The UOC’s general feeling is that the hospital workers have the right to vote in a safe environment free of intimidation, whether they vote for or against the union.”
While the meeting itself was organized by the UOC, other student groups were invited to participate. Suzanne Kahn ’07 — a member of the Roosevelt Institute and New Haven Action — said representatives from both her groups attended the meeting, as did members of Jews for Justice and the Yale Chapter of NAACP.
UOC member Raphael Magarik ’10 said he was grateful for Alexander’s apparent concern for the situation at the hospital.
“I think it’s important that [President] Levin and Alexander use their standing as leaders of the Yale community to exert pressure on the authorities to act within the conduct agreement,” Magarik said. “This election means an incredible amount for the Yale-New Haven community and the relationship between the University and the city.”
The agreement to permit hospital workers to vote on unionization followed nearly a year of disputes about the construction of the hospital’s new cancer center.