Robbie Short

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.

  • 72bullldog

    At first I was surprised to see the Mayor injecting herself into a labor dispute–then I remembered she is a wholly owned subsidiary of Local 33.

  • yalie

    “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.”

    Played it by the book? Aside from ignoring the university’s right to appeal the NLRB’s decision, that is.

  • Mary Ann

    This kind of thing makes clear, if any additional clarity were necessary, that Local 33’s fussings are all about the interests of Connecticut and New Haven labor unions, and very little about the interests of Yale graduate students.

    There is exactly zero point to all this “activism.” Trump has narrowed his list of candidates to fill the two open seats on the five-member National Labor Relations Board to Marvin Kaplan, William Emanuel, and Douglas Seaton.

    As Workforce Policy Counsel on the House Education and Workforce Committee from January 2012 to September 2015, Kaplan “led efforts to fight DOL overtime and 2012 unconstitutional NLRB recess appointments” and “[d]rafted … the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act,” legislation that sought to overturn the Board’s 2012 Specialty Healthcare bargaining unit decision and “quickie election” rulemaking by amending the National Labor Relations Act.

    Emanuel describes himself as having “extensive experience representing employers in traditional labor matters….”

    Seaton is a professional “persuader” (“union buster”) who told Bloomberg that “the board [sic] has gone very, very far to the left or to the pro-union side of things, and I’d be happy and honored if I could help bring it back to the middle.”

    But Local 33’s problems by no means end with the NLRB and the Trump administration, Congress is fuming over key issues in the Yale controversy. For example, a group of 47 House Republican lawmakers is urging the heads of Congress’ appropriations committee to restrain the NLRB from implementing several of former President Barack Obama’s changes to labor regulations. Among other things, their letter criticizes the board’s decision to allow unions to organize subgroups of workers rather than all employees at once, exactly the trick Local 33 used in its Department-by-Department election.

    It is not even clear that any of the recent NLRB actions on which Local 33 relies will even survive action under the Congressional Review Act. The CRA provides Congress with an opportunity to invalidate an agency rule while satisfying the Article I Bicameralism and Presentment requirements. A joint resolution of disapproval signed into law by the President invalidates the rule and bars an agency from thereafter adopting a substantially similar one absent a new act of Congress. As the text of the act shows, Congress intended that the CRA apply broadly to whatever type of document an agency could use to strong-arm a regulated party into complying with the agency’s views.

    Both regulations and interpretive rules fit under the umbrella of “rules” that Congress used to define the substantive scope of agency action. At the same time, Congress was precise in stating exactly when its opportunity to review and overturn a rule would commence: at the later of the date when the Federal Register publishes the rule or when the agency properly submits it to Congress. Together, those provisions enable Congress to reach back and review agency legislative and interpretive regulations that were never properly submitted to Congress under the CRA. The Obama NLRB was so sloppy that it may not have properly reported its later actions to Congress. The main incentive for Congress not to use the CRA is that they don’t have to: The new NLRB will repeal all he rules and interpretations on which Local 33 depends.

  • Hieronymus Machine

    “’One, two, three, four, we won’t wait anymore,’ the protesters chanted.”
    Dollars to donuts y’all will (be waitin’ s’more — mmm, s’mores — that is).

    I *was* moved by those immortal words (was it MLK?) re:the perpetual struggle: “I faced low blood sugar and low blood pressure” and “I’ve lost … 15 to 20 pounds.”

    I also like the reportage (and oh-so-serious pics) over at NH Independent:
    “Earlier Tuesday, the outgoing chair of Yale’s Graduate Student Assembly… argued that [grads] are ‘apprentices,’ not traditional ‘workers’ … ‘trainees’ who wouldn’t yet be able to obtain permanent employment … [GSAS also] noted that only 228 of Yale’s 2,600 Ph.D students got to vote in the elections.”

    Also, despite the general risibility of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies prof. Jennifer Klein’s NYTimes article (that, tellingly, does not allow for comments), I find her observations on the oversupply of graddies worth re-posting (versus riposting):

    “Tenured and tenured-track jobs have declined significantly… There are also a lot fewer job openings. In 2015, for example, 1,183 English Ph.D.s graduated, but there were only 361 openings for assistant English professors in all of academia. Job postings with the American Historical Association — the nexus for history professor job listings — declined by 45 percent over the past five years…
    This has created a perpetual backlog of aspiring assistant professors, all competing for fewer jobs.”

    Could one solution be to, I dunno, reduce supply (most esp. in the, um… less-in-demand depts such as, say, WGSS)?

  • Joey

    It’s not any wonder that Yale wants to appeal a relatively NEW and CONTROVERSIAL labor tactic of microbargaining units as applied to the NEW and CONTROVERSIAL determination that graduate students are employees.

  • Joey

    If you want Yale to negotiate, and if Yale is legally required to negotiate as you say they are, then why are they pursuing a hunger strike instead of legally compelling Yale to come to the negotiating table?

  • Hieronymus Machine
  • Ralphiec88

    Mr. Greenberg may ratchet up the rhetoric, but he knows that if any participants really had to “put their bodies on the line” for Local 33, he would have no participants. The weakness of Local 33’s position is transparent to Salovey and the administration, so they’ll just continue to “no comment” and wait him out.

  • Robert Boni