In a further escalation of the conflict between Yale’s labor unions and the University, Local 35 — the University’s blue-collar union — has filed a complaint with the national board charged with investigating unfair labor practices.
The complaint, filed Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board, claims that the University breached its contract with the union this summer when it restructured Yale Dining by creating a centralized Culinary Support Center. According to the complaint, the University failed to negotiate appropriately with the union before making the decision to go forward with the CSC and unilaterally changed the terms and conditions of employment for a number of union members. Furthermore, Local 35 claims that the University has refused to provide the union with adequate information about the decision-making process that led to the creation of the CSC.
“It’s a complaint from Local 35 to the labor board about [Yale] not talking with us in good faith about their violations of the contract and their refusal to provide us with information as it relates to the grievance,” Local 35 President Bob Proto said.
Proto said he hopes the complaint results in a charge by the NLRB to the University and for the case to be heard in front of an arbitrator.
When reached Wednesday afternoon, University President Peter Salovey said he had not heard about the NLRB complaint and referred all questions to Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel. Peel did not respond to request for comment.
University Spokesman Tom Conroy said the University does not believe the complaint is justified.
“Local 35 has filed NLRB complaints multiple times in the past when they did not like an action that the University took,” Conroy said. “As there were numerous detailed discussions about the change with Local 35 in the period preceding the creation of the Culinary Services Center, we believe that the union’s failure to bargain allegations will be found to have no merit.”
Conroy said he could not recall the last time that a Yale union filed a complaint with the NLRB.
According to Proto, the complaint will be delivered to the University’s general counsel and director of labor relations as well as to the NLRB.
University General Counsel Dorothy Robinson deferred questions to Conroy, while Director of Labor Relations Jane Savage, who was listed as Yale’s representative on the complaint, did not respond to a request for comment.
The first step of the NLRB’s process is the filing of a complaint with a regional office. From there, complaints go through a complex series of steps before resulting in anything from a dismissal to court-enforced remedial orders.
According to Proto, Local 35’s contract — which was signed in 2012 and extends until 2016 — stipulates that the establishment of a new unit in which Local 35 members would work needs to be discussed with the union. If the union does not agree, Proto said, the dispute is required to be settled by an officially appointed arbitrator.
“Obviously, it wasn’t agreed and they didn’t even discuss it with us,” Proto said.
Proto said the University also failed to provide the information necessary for the union to investigate its initial grievances about the CSC.
The NLRB complaint comes a day after Peel sent a letter to members of the University’s leadership outlining six justifications for the changes in Yale Dining.
According to Peel’s letter, the centralization of cold food preparation at Yale follows a model used by most multilocation food service operators and will help improve the quality of cold food in Yale dining halls. Furthermore, “no Yale Dining employee will lose their job, have their hours reduced, or have their pay reduced by this change” and the transition will help keep the cost of student meal plans from rising, he wrote.
Proto said he believes Peel’s letter was written in an effort to delegitimize the union’s recent criticisms of the CSC.
“They’re trying to paint a picture that [creating the CSC] is the right decision [and] the right direction, that this was a benefit to the undergraduates as it relates to food service,” Proto said. “It is a total lie, and Mike Peel’s letter is a reaction to go into a defensive mode to protect the dining administration.”
Chef of Silliman college, Stuart Comen, whose open-letter against the CSC was published as a paid ad in the News on Tuesday, said the NLRB complaint — which he describes as a “drastic action” — was likely a last resort for workers in Yale Dining.
“I think we have to do what we feel is the right move,” Comen said. “I don’t want to seem like a bad guy — but when they schedule to talk to us … it [isn’t] going to be a discussion, so we feel we are stuck.”
He said he is not sure what exactly will come from the NLRB complaint, but he hopes to continue the dialogue about how the CSC can be improved.
A head pantry worker at the CSC who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Yale Dining workers were told in advance that Yale Bakery and Yale Catering would be moving to the CSC. However, it was only in June that Executive Director of Yale Dining Rafi Taherian told the head pantry workers that they would also be moving to the new location.
“I didn’t see it coming,” she said. “For the last couple of years, we had leadership training and team training, trying to form really good teams … and then we get shoved up there.”
The University currently employs 1,162 Local 35 members.