Local 33 and its peer organizations are planning a major demonstration for Commencement Day, as the graduate student union continues to escalate its labor battle with Yale.

In a May 9 email to members of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, Local 35 President Bob Proto — whose union is part of the same umbrella organization, UNITE HERE, as Local 33 — promised to stage a disruptive protest during Commencement, which will be held on May 22.

“On Yale’s most important day, we will flood the city of New Haven with working people, to show that nobody — not Donald Trump, not the Yale administration — will make us move backward now,” Proto wrote.

In another widely circulated email on May 12, Jaime Myers-McPhail, a leader of New Haven Rising, said the city “will become ground zero in the fight for workers under Trump” on Commencement Day. On a Facebook event page, Local 33 is urging students to “stand with us” during Commencement, although the page does not yet include any specific information about the protest.

Local 33 Chair Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18 and union spokeswoman Sarah Eidelson ’12 did not respond to requests for comment. In a statement to the News, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the University is “aware of the scheduled demonstration and has made contingency plans to give the graduating students and their families and friends the celebratory day they deserve.”

After winning labor elections in eight academic departments in February, Local 33 demanded that Yale begin the collective bargaining process. But over the past month, the University has refused to open negotiations and is instead appealing the legal underpinning of the union’s departmental elections with the National Labor Relations Board.

Local 33 argues that the University is deliberately stalling as it waits for Trump to nominate anti-union appointees to the NLRB. Last month, eight graduate students began a hunger strike on Beinecke Plaza to pressure Yale to come to the table. And during undergraduate move-out last week, nearly two dozen graduate student protesters were arrested after blocking three downtown intersections during one of the most traffic-heavy days of the year.

But as news of the demonstration spread on social media, graduating seniors expressed anger and sadness about Local 33’s plans to disrupt Commencement. In an interview with the News, Mimi Pham ’17, the treasurer for the class of 2017, said that although she generally supports Local 33, the union’s plans are “a little bit insensitive to the 1,300 graduating students.”

“My peers and myself were really looking forward to Commencement as the culmination of four years of really hard work,” Pham said. “ I understand why they would use Commencement as a day to demonstrate. But I do wish, from just an organizational point of view, that it wouldn’t happen.”

Lily Engbith ’17 — a graduating senior and New Haven resident who supports Local 33 as well as Yale’s other two unions — said the demonstration was unfair to the thousands of family members traveling to campus for Commencement .

“It targets those who have the least to do with their issue with the university administration,” Engbith said. “Given how many families are travelling, I think it’s really inappropriate for them to try to upstage this event.”

Along with the undergraduates, students in Yale’s graduate and professional schools receive diplomas on Commencement Day. In an interview with the News, Elizabeth Mo GRD ’18 — a former president of the Graduate and Professional Students Senate who now runs the anti-Local 33 group GASO — criticized the union’s plans, predicting that many of the protesters will not be Yale students.

“I bet none of those people are going to be graduate students,” Mo told the News. “They’re getting [Locals] 34 and 35, and they’re bringing in outside politicians who get funding from UNITE HERE. This is not going to be representative of grad students.”

The demonstration scheduled for May 22 would not be the first time that a labor conflict has disrupted Commencement. In 1996, thousands of union members from across the northeast staged a “People’s Commencement” outside Old Campus to protest stalled contract negotiations between Yale and the union representing clerical workers, cooks, janitors and researchers, according to The New York Times.

  • Joey

    Just don’t disrupt the commencement itself. Many grad students have worked 6 years to reach this day. Don’t take it away from them and make it about yourself.

  • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

    Wow, I didn’t see *that* one coming!

  • Jen D

    I’m an employee and an active member of Local 34. Last week’s move-in day protest from 33 resulted in some of our students missing their trains/planes home. Our students are trying to celebrate a major milestone in their lives and now it looks as
    though 33 is going to ruin that party, too.

    Hey, Grad students – presumably you had a nice undergrad commencement –
    don’t you think all of our students deserve the same? I get that your beef is with
    the administration. Maybe you should take it up with them and not make the
    graduating class pay for your gripes?

    I *was* supportive of 33, but with this display I’m afraid I can no longer back you. What a disappointment.

    • Kate_Mannix

      Please know that the actions of Local 33/UNITE HERE are not supported by the broader graduate student body. This is one of the problems with GESO/Local 33 – the unelected leadership makes unilateral decisions, without consulting the union members. There’s no accountability, and there’s really nothing we can do to stop them. I can only hope that their demonstration doesn’t actually disrupt commencement. Also, as Mo alluded to in the article, I hope people take note of how many “protestors” are actually graduate students… We shouldn’t mistake a large crowd of UNITE HERE-backed protestors for actual graduate student support.

  • J. Gatsby

    Communist agitators should be ex-commed and expelled.

  • Nancy Morris

    How many ways can Local 33 partisans find to spell “c-o-u-n-t-e-r-p-r-o-d-u-c-t-i-v-e?”

  • Saph

    Now do you get it, dear undergrad friends?

    These lunatics don’t care about us, and they certainly don’t care about you. They are a cult, and nothing will stop their crusade.

  • Jaymin Patel

    “Let’s annoy others. Surely that will get them on our side”

  • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

    In the Careful-What-You-Wish-For department, I can think of many ways to highlight/frustrate the hypocrisy here. Imagine if, for example, Yale made TA slots “voluntary,” that is, all grads got the same financial aid pack, and TAing became a voluntary activity.

    In a wheat/chaff separation transaction, the clever would realize (as they already do) that TAing is critical to securing future employment (aka effective teaching) and thus would bulk up on TA slots (likely leading to cries of “insufficient opportunity!”).

    The lazy and… less-clever (I’m speaking of squishies, not, e.g., hard sciences where actual research takes place) could skate through — never interacting with undergrads — straight to Starbucks®. Indeed, this plan might inject some honesty and save us all some time and head/heartache.

    More generally, imagine if Sam Walton were in charge of grad policy… While both of these are fantasy, I certainly would support a far more draconian and Darwinian resolution to the problem of graddie crybullies.

  • Stefan Krastanov

    This is the overall impression the last four years as a grad student have left one me:
    Local33 always assumes malice in their opponent, instead of attempting a
    civil discussion at first.

    Months after the elections a petition was started demanding that
    the University starts negotiations, but Local33 never reached out to
    the university in that time. If Local33 were so eager to talk, why did
    they not reach out before using heavy-handed techniques like petitions
    and protests? Their answer is that the University would have disregarded
    them anyway. But I do not see how one can consistently claim this, when
    at the same time they on purpose avoid those initial civil attempts of
    communication, just so that they can paint the University as the
    unreasonable one.

    By the way, that petition was signed mainly by New Haven residents and undergrads. It had minimal support among actual grad students that Local33 pretends to represent.

  • Sol G

    It’s unfortunate that there Is increasing tolerance for thuggish, physical strong arm tactics and even violence among progressives. The development seems another form of refusing to accept fair elections. Local 33’s own gimmicky Department-by-Department pseudo-election already manifests the union’s contempt for fair elections and is used by the union to obscure the fact that the majority of Yale graduate students do not support Local 33. Local 33 lost in the national forum when Hillary Clinton lost the election to the presidency: There is no chance that the NLRB will tolerate the union’s conceits and undemocratic ways once the NLRB’s vacancies are filled. But the union refuses to accept that fair elections have and should have consequences.

    In Washington we see abuse of the filibuster against a superbly qualified Supreme Court nominee, extensive reporting of unsupported inflammatory news by mainstream media (“Comey requested additional resources,” “Rosenstein threatened to resign,” and much more), unhinged cries for impeaching the president from a widening circle of once-apparently-sane progressives (Laurence Tribe, e.g.), demands for unwarranted recusals of much of the Justice Department, insistence on continuing and intensifying investigations that have produced neither evidence nor the promise of evidence, all as illegitimate devices intended to undermine the democratic process and the elections. Compared to that, blocking New Haven commuters as Local 33 did, and disrupting the Yale Commencement, as the union is now threatening, is small beer. But it’s the same beer.

    Every day brings a new terrifying threat to democracy from the Left and more tolerance in them for thuggish disruption. Yesterday brought reports that a Republican Congressman was tailed and sideswiped on the road by a self-important progressive. The FBI just arrested a Tucson public school employee for expletive-filled voicemails he left for Republican U.S. Rep. Martha McSally on May 2 and May 10, voicemails that threatened McSally for supporting Trump, told her that she should “be careful” when she returns to Tucson, that her days “were numbered,” and threatening to shoot her. Progressive campus violence and threats of violence disrupting invited and uninvited speakers have become normal for many colleges (thankfully, not Yale). And the example swell in their horror. Today we learn that Seth Rich — the Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down in Northwest D.C. near his home last July — leaked thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks in the months before his murder. That obviously raises the prospect of Democratic Party activists having had Rich killed in retaliation for his whistle blowing. The story comes complete with insinuations of FBI/DC Police complicity. What are progressives becoming? It’s horrifying.

    It will all not end well. Not well at all.

    • wonder_woman

      “Today we learn that Seth Rich — the Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down in Northwest D.C. near his home last July — leaked thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks in the months before his murder. That obviously raises the prospect of Democratic Party activists having had Rich killed in retaliation for his whistle blowing. The story comes complete with insinuations of FBI/DC Police complicity.”

      I think you need a new tinfoil hat.

      • Sol G

        No, you need to get out more.

        According to Fox News, though admittedly via yet another anonymous FBI source, Rich made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, an American investigative reporter and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time. According to Fox News sources, federal law enforcement investigators found 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments sent between DNC leaders from January 2015 to May 2016 that Rich shared with WikiLeaks before he was gunned down on July 10, 2016.

        The Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down on July 10 on a Washington, D.C., street just steps from his home had leaked thousands of internal emails to WikiLeaks, law enforcement sources told Fox News.

        A federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report detailing the contents of DNC staffer Seth Rich’s computer generated within 96 hours after his murder, said Rich made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time.

        “I have seen and read the emails between Seth Rich and Wikileaks,” the federal investigator told Fox News, confirming the MacFadyen connection. He said the emails are in possession of the FBI, while the stalled case is in the hands of the Washington Police Department.

        Then, on July 22, just 12 days after Rich was killed, WikiLeaks published internal DNC emails that appeared to show top party officials conspiring to stop Bernie Sanders from becoming the party’s presidential nominee. As we’ve noted before, the DNC’s efforts to block Sanders resulted in Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigning as DNC chairperson.

        WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange has stopped short of identifying Rich as the source of the emails, but has taken a keen interest in the case, and has not denied working with Rich.

        “WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich,” the organization announced.

        Assange has not returned a series of recent emails from Fox News about Rich. MacFadyen, who was considered a mentor by Assange, died of lung cancer on Oct. 22 at age 76.

        Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department has no suspects and no substantial leads as to who the killer or killers may be, sources close to the investigation said. Metropolitan Police, including the police chief, have refused to discuss the case, despite requests from reporters dating back 10 months.

        What, exactly, is “tin foil hat” about a DNC staffer passing emails to Wikileaks? There would be nothing astounding about Seth Rich blowing the whistle on a corrupt DNC and its Chair. Is it less likely than an employee of an NSA contractor pilfering vast amounts of secret data and handing it ti Wikileaks? Is it more outrageous than Chelsea Manning’s exploits? For that matter, is it more peculiar than DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz manipulating the procedures and actions of the DNC to install Clinton as the nominee, and then flat out lying about about it until these emails exposed her sinister doings and she was forced to resign? Is it more peculiar than an NSA insider passing secret information that has been used to create the ransomware that is now paralyzingly businesses, hospitals and institutions all over the world?

        Of course not. Your comment is unforgivable partisan blindness.

        Grow up.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Anybody protesting the tuition? Just a thought.

    • yalie

      You mean any undergrads? Grad students’ tuition is covered by the university.

    • Capital Magpie

      Maybe you’re just referring to that issue in general, but these are PhD students, who don’t pay tuition (we receive a stipend in addition to covered tuition + healthcare), so that’s not relevant to GESO.

  • Marco Ramirez

    At this rate of leftist activism and disruption, which usually devolve into simple tantrums, most American colleges and universities will simply not be able to function in a few years. So much infighting, malice and retribution. Basic graduation ceremonies apparently cannot happen without paralyzing controversy.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Yale Dean Chu made the news with a Yale perspective on dining in New Haven:

    ‘To put it quite simply: If you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you!’ Chu wrote in a review of Koto, a Japanese restaurant in West Lebanon, New Hampshire.

    I don’t blame Chu, I blame the Yale perspective: ‘To put it quite simply: If you don’t want to be like me, you are white trash.’ I paraphrase, perhaps even exaggerate a bit for the sake of emphasis, but there is a point there.