For the fourth time in 18 months, the Graduate Employees and Students Organization is demanding union recognition through an on-campus rally.
On Oct. 15, GESO and five other allied organizations including Students Unite Now, New Haven Rising and Locals 34 and 35 will convene to call on Yale for a neutral election on graduate student unionization. The University still does not recognize GESO as a union after decades of student protests, but GESO Chair Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18 said support for graduate student unions is growing at universities across the country.
“Nationally, I think the conversation about unions is changing,” Greenberg said. “[Union] campaigns have really started to grow in the past 18 months, especially in the private sector.”
When graduate students at New York University voted to unionize in December 2013, GESO responded with their first major rally in several years, delivering a 220-foot long petition to Woodbridge Hall. Last October, GESO held yet another rally of 1,000 protesters, joined by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Gov. Dannel Malloy and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp. This spring, GESO marched on the Provost’s Office calling for racial and gender equity, funding security for graduate students in all departments and improved mental health resources.
Greenberg said GESO’s demand for its upcoming protest is the same as it was for the previous three: a Yale-approved vote by graduate students on whether graduate student employees form a union. Greenberg said the majority of graduate students support GESO’s union recognition, adding that every rally has increased GESO’s support among graduate students.
Support from Yale unions and New Haven groups is important, GESO co-chair Robin Canavan GRD ’18 said. Graduate students at Harvard and the University of Oregon have made similar efforts to unionize. In addition, graduate students at the University of Chicago, University of Oregon, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard and The New School have held similar graduate student rallies asking for neutral elections. Of Yale’s peer institutions, only New York University has a union of graduate student employees.
Greenberg could not confirm the specific on-campus location of the Oct. 15 protest. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was invited to the rally, but his attendance is not confirmed, Greenberg said. Still, according to de Blasio’s itinerary, the Mayor will be in New Haven on the day of the protest: He is scheduled to speak at the Board of Alders Black and Hispanic Caucus’ Fall Gala on Oct. 15.
The unrecognized union has attracted support within local government. In September, Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 and Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr. both penned columns for the News expressing support for the idea of the University allowing graduate student employees to vote to unionize. Harp spoke at the October 2014 rally.
SUN organizer Jesús Gutiérrez ’16 said talking to students about the issues of graduate student unionization and reducing the student income contribution is as important as the rally itself. SUN organizer Lev Gray ’18 said New Haven Rising sent out over 3,000 letters to New Haven residents asking them to show support on Oct. 15.
“Bottom-up change is good,” Gutiérrez said. “When I got here there wasn’t much talk about these issues.”
GESO was founded in 1990.