Led by Mayor Toni Harp, hundreds of graduate students, undergraduates and New Haven residents marched from Cross Campus to Woodbridge Hall Tuesday evening to protest Yale’s continued refusal to open negotiations with graduate student union Local 33.
“One, two, three, four, we won’t wait anymore,” the protesters chanted. “Five, six, seven, eight, sit down and negotiate.”
Tuesday marks two weeks since eight Yale graduate students began an indefinite hunger strike designed to pressure the University to come to the negotiating table. Only three of those eight students — Emily Sessions GRD ’19, Charles Decker GRD ’18 and Lukas Moe GRD ’19 — are still fasting. The other five hunger strikers, including Local 33 Chair Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18 and Co-Chair Robin Canavan GRD ’19, have dropped out for medical reasons. Five new graduate students have replaced them.
“Today we’re asking how much longer is Yale going to wait, how much longer are they going to delay while members of the Yale community everyday put their bodies on the line and go without eating,” said Greenberg, who left the fast on Monday at the advice of his doctor. “How much longer is Yale going to wait to sit down and negotiate with us. It’s a question that is directed at President Salovey personally.”
University spokesman Tom Conroy did not respond to a request for comment.
Salovey has made few public comments about the hunger strikers, who have gathered each day since April 26 in a tent just yards from his office in Woodbridge Hall. In a campus-wide email last week, Salovey reiterated his longstanding objections to the union’s departmental election strategy and wrote that “threats of self-harm have no place in rational debate when an established dispute resolution process still exists.”
At the moment, President Salovey has no plans to meet with Local 33, although he has agreed to speak to union supporter Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., about the labor issue over the phone
Sitting in a wheelchair outside Woodbridge on Tuesday, Decker said Local 33 has run out of patience with the Yale administration. In recent months, union supporters have argued that Salovey is deliberately delaying the legal process until President Donald Trump fills the National Labor Relations Board with anti-union appointees opposed to graduate student unionization.
“We’ve been patiently waiting right over there at 33 Wall, but you know, at this point it’s been so shocking and disappointing to all of us that we haven’t had any word from [Yale] at all,” Decker said. “We did play this by the book, we followed the rules and we won.”
Local 33 won labor elections in eight academic departments in February, after a months-long court battle with Yale. But the University has challenged the legal basis of those elections and refuses to begin negotiations while its appeals are still pending in front of the NLRB.
“We are deeply troubled by the undemocratic method of department-by-department unionization chosen by Local 33, a method unprecedented in higher education,” Salovey wrote in the campuswide email.
The Graduate Employees and Students Organization was rebranded as Local 33 in March 2016.