Local 34, Yale’s union of clerical and technical workers, petitioned the University on Wednesday to secure the 986 Yale School of Medicine jobs the union says are at risk of disappearing.
While on their lunch break, union leaders delivered identical petitions bearing signatures from over 2,500 Local 34 union members to both School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern and University President Peter Salovey. While Salovey did not greet the union members outside of Woodbridge Hall, Alpern listened as Yolanda Giordano, Local 34 recording secretary, explained the plight of medical school staff who fear their jobs are being transferred to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where their jobs are not protected by the union. Although Alpern said the workers should not be worried about job security, the union’s petition suggests that the medical school staff have cause for concern.
“We’re here, we’re going to bang on this locked door until we get the job security we need,” shouted Local 34 President Laurie Kennington on the steps of Woodbridge Hall.
The petition comes exactly two weeks before four-year union contract negotiations begin between Yale and Local 34. The petition requests that the University administration make a written commitment to preserving the 986 medical school jobs. Kennington has said that job security is a priority for her union and will be a major topic at the bargaining table this year. Giordano said Yale’s unions will be very active in the coming weeks as Yale’s graduate students hope to form a union: Local 33. She called the next 14 days a “crescendo” culminating in the union contract negotiations.
Kennington said the petition arose out of concerns that YNHH is gradually taking over the daily operations of the medical school. Local 34 first raised concerns in December 2015 after YNHH’s pediatric emergency billing office hired extra workers to take care of backlogged administrative jobs, suggesting to some medical school employees that the University was trying to undermine the union. Although Kennington told the News on Wednesday that Yale has not officially recognized that any such transition is taking place, she noted that some medical school employees were billed as hospital workers on their Medicare packages, suggesting that the University considers them YNHH, not medical school, employees.
“I don’t know if anyone pays attention to what’s going on in the medical school,” Giordano said in Alpern’s office.
Salovey confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the petition had been delivered, though he said he had not yet had the chance to read it. University spokesman Tom Conroy dismissed the concerns over job security as “rumors.” A June 2015 email from Alpern and CEO of the Yale Medical Group Paul Taheri to all clinical employees assured staff that there was no risk of Local 34 clinical jobs moving to the hospital, in response to a June 11, 2015 New Haven Register article that suggested 986 jobs were being transferred.
“While we do not typically respond to every rumor, we felt that we needed to counteract groundless assertions with the facts. There is no need to worry,” Alpern’s email read. “There is no plan to move 986 of our clinical jobs over to the hospital, and there never has been.”
Upon delivering the petition at the medical school, Local 34 union members said that YNHH has recently opened up positions similar to those already in existence at the medical school, adding that these openings make them fear that their jobs will be eliminated. Lisa Stevens, a medical assistant at Smilow Cancer Hospital, said she noticed that three jobs very similar to her own had opened up on the YNHH hiring website. Alpern downplayed the presence of any danger to union jobs, but he acknowledged that employees may feel concerned nonetheless.
“I don’t think you need to be concerned about it, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t concerned,” Alpern said. “We will protect those jobs.”
Over 30 union members, including Local 34 Vice President for the Medical Area Tony Lopes and Giordano, surrounded Alpern in his medical school office on Wednesday. When Giordano, standing next to Alpern, asked those who were worried about the security of their jobs to raise their hands, nearly everyone in the room did so.
After handing the petition to Alpern, Giordano said the petition’s signatories come from every area of campus, not just the medical school, demonstrating that the issue has a broad base of support. The 2,500 signatures on the petition constitute roughly 78 percent of the total 3,200 Local 34 membership, according to Giordano.
The medical school employs a total of 1,200 unionized employees, according to Conroy.
In 1965, Grace-New Haven Hospital changed its name to Yale-New Haven Hospital after a formal agreement with the Yale School of Medicine.