Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, D-Conn., met with the eight fasting members of Local 33 at Beinecke Plaza on Sunday, expressing support for the union and vowing to press the students’ case with University President Peter Salovey.
“Your example of courage is going to inspire many people around the country,” Blumenthal told the fasting students. “I just really wanted to come by and have a chance to show my support. You should never doubt that there are people on your side.”
The eight students — Local 33 Chair Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18, co-chair Robin Canavan GRD ’19, Camille Cole GRD ’20, Charles Decker GRD ’18, Lukas Moe GRD ’19, Julia Powers GRD ’19, Emily Sessions GRD ’19 and Jifeng Shen GRD ’18 — began the hunger strike last Tuesday to put pressure on Yale to start contract negotiations with the eight academic departments that voted to join Local 33 in February. The University has refused to open negotiations because it still has legal appeals pending in front of the National Labor Relations Board.
Blumenthal told the students that the state’s congressional delegation hopes to meet with Salovey in the coming days to encourage Yale to open negotiations with Local 33.
In an interview with the News, Greenberg expressed gratitude to Blumenthal and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who on Saturday visited the Beinecke Plaza encampment, dubbed “33 Wall Street” by the hunger strikers.
“This would be impossible to do alone, and impossible to do without the community that our presence here at 33 Wall Street has created,” Greenberg said. “I’m really inspired that both he and Congresswoman DeLauro took the time to spend some time with us.”
During the meeting at Beinecke Plaza, Blumenthal said the Local 33 hunger strike has the “same spirit, same values, same energy” as the Women’s March on Washington, which took place on January 21. But when asked by the News whether he supports the union’s specific methods, Blumenthal twice declined to endorse the hunger strike tactic.
“Everybody fighting a battle has to choose their strategy and tactics,” Blumenthal said. “I’m not here to judge but simply to support their cause.”
Over the last week, the hunger strike — which has made national headlines in recent days — has faced pushback from students and faculty who argue that the tactic is inappropriate for a labor dispute. On Friday, the Yale College Republicans held a picnic just feet away from the union tent, sparking widespread debate about the fast on social media.
But on Sunday, the eight graduate students, who have been spending the night at a local church, were focused on making it through the day. Canavan said she is working on her dissertation, and noted that a game of Settlers of Catan was planned for later in the afternoon.