In his 42 years as a member of Local 35 — Yale’s blue-collar union — Tom Gaudioso rose in the ranks from grounds maintenance worker to union president in the 1980s and 1990s. Yesterday, a year and a half into his retirement, Gaudioso was back on Yale’s campus, this time to protest the very union and university to which he dedicated almost his entire adult life.
From 8:30 a.m. yesterday morning into the late afternoon, Gaudioso stood beside a white pick-up truck decorated with signs encouraging current members of Local 35 to demand more a more honest relationship with union leaders and Yale as a whole.
“Local 35 members, who is fighting for you?” read one. “Local 35, I am here to help you,” read another.
Gaudioso said his outspokenness against the union’s current leadership has put him on a blacklist of people barred from playing any role in union or University proceedings.
“Yale was uncomfortable with me being around the campus because I’d been a strong union leader for years and I had not been very cozy with the University,” Gaudioso said. “I’m a straight-up working man’s guy.”
Gaudioso said tensions between himself and the union leadership started running high during the most recent union election in which Gaudioso campaigned against Bob Proto, the current Local 35 president. Gaudioso said he was perceived to have undermined Proto’s leadership and executive board, and that he was slowly marginalized as a result.
Gaudioso said it is hardly unusual for retired Local 35 members to attend union meetings, but he has been barred from even entering the building at 425 College St. A new union rule was suddenly instituted in the spring, he said, stating that retirees could not be present at meetings. Policemen carrying a photo of him and his wife were present at all subsequent Local 35 gatherings, Gaudioso said. He added that he has been escorted off of union or University property on multiple occasions.
In a memo obtained by the News dated April 17, University Facilities Operations Director Roger Goode said anyone who sees Gaudioso on University property must contact campus police.
“I’m still asking, ‘What did I do?,’ ‘Why am I being banned from meetings?’” Gaudioso said. “They can’t give me an explanation. I could enjoy my retirement but I can’t forget the people I care about. I still have people that I love that are here.”
Proto declined to comment on specific union proceedings, though he did say that Guadioso’s claims were unfounded.
“The man has a problem,” Proto said.
Others who have known Gaudioso for decades, however, said they staunchly defend his dedication to the union and his hardworking nature.
John Borelli, who has been a Local 35 member for 33 years, said the union saw some of its best days under Gaudioso’s leadership.
“He was just heart and soul, and the custodians got the best rates at that time,” Borelli said. “Everything he told you, you could bank on it.”
During Gaudioso’s leadership in the early 1990s, tensions between the union and the University ran high — throughout the 1990s, the union went on strike several times. It was not until 2003, under Proto’s leadership, that the University and union reached a breakthrough agreement that led to 10 years of organized labor peace at Yale.
Borelli said that since Gaudioso’s retirement, current union leadership has worked to undo many of the policies Gaudioso worked to enact. He added that the union’s treatment of Gaudioso since his retirement is unprecedented.
One worker in the grounds maintenance department, who spoke on the condition on anonymity to protect his job, said Gaudioso had always been a crucial resource to other union members, and that to have him ostracized at a time when the union needed strong leadership was ridiculous.
The University currently employs 1,162 Local 35 members.