At a rally outside Woodbridge Hall Wednesday evening, graduate student union Local 33 gave Yale a 13-day extension on its original April 12 deadline to open labor negotiations.
Union members and supporters gathered around the President’s Office as the 5:30 p.m. deadline, which was presented to the University last week, expired.
“Right now, we’ve set another deadline we hope Yale will meet,” Local 33 Chair Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18 told the News. “If they don’t meet it, we will act. What that looks like — we’ll see. This is now the second deadline that we’ve given them, and we have every expectation that they will come to the table.”
The group placed an elongated table in front of Woodbridge Hall to represent a Yale Corporation meeting — complete with name cards and chairs — but with one notable addition: chairs for the eight Yale departments which voted to unionize, though the outcome in two of those departments will remain undecided until a National Labor Relations Board hearing the week of April 24.
Six of those eight departments — English, History of Art, History, Sociology, Math, and Geology and Geophysics — voted to join Local 33 in elections held on Feb. 22. Results in Political Science and East Asian Languages and Literatures are pending NLRB review. Also pending is a part of Yale’s original request for review of an NLRB decision that allowed Local 33 to hold elections on a departmental basis, as well as the University’s attempted second request for review challenging the notion that graduate students qualify as workers.
Leaders from Local 33 were joined by those from Local 34 and Local 35, Yale’s unions for clerical and dining hall workers, respectively.
“Yale, I’m putting you on notice,” said Tyisha Walker, secretary-treasurer of Local 35 and president of the New Haven Board of Alders. “If you don’t sit down and negotiate, you’re going to have a big problem. Stop being a coward. Sit down and deal with the people that are grading and teaching your students.”
State Senate President Pro-Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, also attended the rally and called on Yale to be true to what he said were the University’s professed principles: a belief in democracy, a belief in empowerment and a belief in respecting the results of free elections.
Local 33 Co-Chair Robin Canavan GRD ’19 pointed to the administration of President Donald Trump as an explanation for why Yale has not come to the negotiation table. She argued that Yale is stalling so that Trump has time to fill the labor board with conservative appointees who would oppose graduate student unionization.
“Why did Yale say no?” Canavan asked the crowd. “They are delaying to start negotiations because they are hoping that President Trump will appoint anti-union members to the NLRB and then take away our organizing rights. We are here today because we want to ask Yale to not hide behind President Trump. We are asking Yale to respect the decisive outcome of our NLRB elections.”
University spokesman Tom Conroy said in a statement to the News that it would be premature to begin negotiations before the elections in the Political Science and East Asian Languages and Literatures departments are resolved. Conroy added that Yale respects the legal process in which it and Local 33 are jointly engaged.
Still, graduate students in the contested departments have expressed their frustration with Yale’s decision. In an editorial in DOWN Magazine, Solange Hilfinger-Pardo LAW ’17 chastised the University for its legal appeals and opposition to the votes cast by graduate and professional students, specifically in her department of Political Science.
“The Yale administration is currently trying to disenfranchise me,” Hilfinger-Pardo wrote. “I don’t mean symbolically. I mean they are literally asking the federal government to shred the ballot I cast in favor of forming a union with Local 33.”
Local 33 held an official union charter convention at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale on March 9, 2016.