After a protest last week by more than 200 employees, Yale and its two unions — Local 34 and Local 35 — are continuing to negotiate new terms.
Clashes between Yale and its unions, which represent clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers, have intensified this year as their current contract approaches its expiration date on Dec. 31. Members of Local 34 identified job security, filling vacant positions, across-the-board raises and support for graduate student unionization as key concerns and demands from the two unions, said Linda Mattice, a Local 34 member and research assistant in the sciences. After the protest last Wednesday, the University has scheduled multiple meetings in the upcoming weeks to pursue solutions to the contract disagreement, University spokesman Tom Conroy said.
The current contracts between each of the two unions and Yale were passed unanimously in June 2012, six months before the previous negotiation deadline. However, the relationship between the University and the unions soured this May when Yale downsized its staff at the medical school by laying off more than 100 Local 34 and Local 35 members.
“We share the desire to reach an agreement on new labor contracts early if that is possible,” Conroy said in an email.
Local 34 and Local 35 will seek out two separate contracts with Yale, but the two unions bargain collectively under their umbrella organization UNITE HERE, a labor union with members from the U.S. and Canada employed in nearly a dozen industries such as manufacturing and transportation.
Meanwhile, union leadership has communicated all of UNITE HERE’s demands with its members, said Mattice, who works in the Coli Genetic Stock Center, a core facility anchored under the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department. Even though she hasn’t actively contacted union officers regarding the contract negotiations process, she said she has made her concerns heard by participating in smaller group meetings with the union leaders and filling out a survey sent out by Local 34.
Mattice added that a major concern for Yale affiliated hospitals and clinics is keeping employment opportunities within the union and preventing them from being delegated to non-union individuals.
“Perhaps they should strive a little harder to be a role model for what makes a good employer especially in this very depressed New Haven,” Mattice said. “People are just trying to make a decent living and survive in this state.”
The unions’ press contact and Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 did not respond to 10 requests for comment on her work phone and email on Wednesday and Thursday.
Conroy said University and union leaders are optimistic about reaching an agreement before the end of this year by citing the fact that both sides “have demonstrated in the past the ability to work together to find creative and balanced solutions.”
Still, Local 34 members are not so certain about the progress of contract negotiations. Mattice said her confidence is wavering as both sides will soon reach the deadline. But she hasn’t given up hope yet, she said.
“I do not know for certain if [the Wednesday protest] had any impact, but I hope it would encourage [us] all to sit down and talk seriously so we can get this settled before the contract is up,” Mattice said. “Compromises will have to be made.”
Local 34 will not be able to strike before the December deadline due to the constraints stated in the current contract, said Local 34 President Laurie Kennington ’01 in a 2014 interview with the News.
Local 34 and Local 35 last went on strike in 2003.