The graduate student union Local 33 last week conceded 41 challenged ballots with the National Labor Relations Board in the Political Science and East Asian Languages and Literatures departments.
Local 33’s concession means that those two departments will join Math, Sociology, History, History of Art, English and Geology and Geophysics as the unionized departments within the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The challenged ballots were cast by non-Ph.D. master’s and professional students serving as teaching fellows within those departments, such as Yale Law School students who are also undergraduate political science teaching fellows.
“We’re thrilled that the election results in the final two departments have been certified and we’ve officially won,” Local 33 Chair Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18 said. “We remain disappointed that Yale advocated for disenfranchising some voters and we will keep fighting at the negotiating table for them to be included.”
The resolution of the contest over these challenged ballots brings to a close one prong of the ongoing legal battle between Yale and Local 33 over unionization. Still, the University’s original request for review of an NLRB decision that allowed Local 33 to hold elections on a departmental basis remains pending before labor court.
At the same time, Yale’s legal team is attempting to file a second request for review, which would challenge the court’s ruling in a Columbia case that graduate students at private universities qualify as workers.
With the challenged ballots thrown out, the number of votes counted from the Feb. 22 election drops from 269 to 228.
This figure makes up less than one-tenth of all 2,600 doctoral students in the GSAS, according to University spokesman Tom Conroy. In a statement to the News, Conroy said that the students who cast the discarded votes do not share the same necessary community of interest with teaching doctoral students.
“The University is pleased that Local 33 of UNITE HERE has conceded that the ballots in the February union elections that were challenged by Yale should not count,” Conroy said. “The low vote total was due to Local 33’s microunit strategy that kept students in the rest of the school’s departments from having a say on the question of graduate student unionization.”
Conroy noted that Yale’s graduate union is the only such group that has pushed for unionization on a departmental basis. He pointed to other private universities, including Harvard and Columbia, where graduate students have carried out elections on a schoolwide basis.
A hearing that was initially scheduled for the week of April 24 by NLRB Regional Director John Walsh to decide the challenged ballots will no longer take place. And earlier this month, Local 33 extended its original April 12 deadline for Yale to come to the bargaining table. That move came a week after the union presented a petition with roughly 12,000 signatures to Woodbridge Hall in an effort to begin the bargaining process.
In an April 20 editorial for DOWN Magazine, Jeffrey Niedermaier GRD ’20 said Yale is dragging out its legal opposition to Local 33 so that it is more likely to be considered by an NLRB of President Donald Trump’s appointees, who may be more likely to oppose graduate student unionization. On April 21, Trump appointed Republican Philip Miscimarra to chair the NLRB.
“Despite the fact that graduate teachers in my department voted ‘yes’ to form a union, Yale has refused to negotiate with us,” wrote Niedermaier, who teaches in the East Asian Languages and Literatures Department. “Personally, I am devastated and sickened by this. My colleagues who are master’s and professional students deserve an official tally. … The University is trying to create divisions among graduate teachers who have decided to band together.”
The NLRB was established by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 in conjunction with the National Industrial Recovery Act.
David Yaffe-Bellany contributed reporting.