After nine years, workers will finally be able to vote in union elections at the Yale-New Haven Hospital on Dec. 20 and 21. Yesterday, students from a broad spectrum of campus groups, including the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, the NAACP, Christians for Social Justice, Jews for Justice and the Queer Political Action Committee, met with Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander to discuss the upcoming union election and the recent violations of the Elections Principles Agreement committed by the hospital. Unfortunately the hospital is engaged in a campaign to unfairly affect the outcome of the election. The students are concerned that if violations of the agreement discredit the outcome of the election, it will severely harm the hospital’s and Yale’s relationships with the New Haven community.
According to union organizers, hospital management has violated the agreement with increasing frequency. Literature containing false and deceitful information about the union has been distributed to workers, both by the management itself and by “anti-union” workers’ groups. Managers and supervisors have called mandatory meetings in which they disparage the union. As of this Monday, supervisors have begun initiating one-on-one conversations with workers. Workers are even being pulled away from patient care for these meetings and threatened with loss of pay, benefits and favorable working conditions if they support the union. All of these actions are explicitly forbidden by the agreement, but they continue. As the election approaches, maintaining an intimidation-free atmosphere at the hospital is vital to the fairness of the election.
The union has also been accused of violating the agreement and has acted responsibly by apologizing for the violations and withdrawing the offending organizers from the hospital. The hospital management, on the other hand, continues to deny the worsening of the situation, despite direct reports from workers. An arbitration process exists, through which both sides can settle grievances, but it requires that the worker take the risk of confronting the supervisor who threatened him, and it is too slow to stop the violations before the election. A stronger effort to stop this behavior needs to be made now.
The hospital needs to be prevented from creating an atmosphere of intimidation and misinformation during the lead- up to the election. This is the time when violating the agreement potentially will have the most impact and create the most fear and intimidation. Workers should not be made to feel that their job security is threatened when they vote for a union. It is absolutely vital that the election take place in a manner that the union, the hospital and the community can respect. If violations of the agreement do not cease, the future of Yale-New Haven relations does not look bright.
Other students and I expressed our concerns regarding these violations to Vice President Alexander, urging him to step up pressure on the hospital. We requested that Alexander, who played a large role in the creation of the agreement, use his influence to bring both the union and the hospital together to reach an understanding regarding proper conduct in the weeks leading up to the election. We feel that it is important, both for the community and for Yale’s integrity, that Yale does everything it can to ensure that the union election takes place in a fair, intimidation-free manner. Alexander agreed with our sentiments and with the importance of the situation regarding Yale’s standing in the community, and was particularly upset by reports of the one-on-one meetings. The Undergraduate Organizing Committee and other student groups are waiting to hear back from the administration regarding what further actions they plan to take. We are hopeful that positive steps will be taken to stop violations of the agreement.
D. Hans Schoenburg is a freshman in Morse College and a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee.