On Thursday afternoon, with megaphones and cowbells in hand, 70 members of the Yale Police Benevolent Association, Yale’s police union, marched from the Yale Police Department Headquarters to University President Peter Salovey’s office to protest ongoing contract negotiations with Yale.
The protest comes amid a 27-month contract dispute between the YPD and the University, in which the union has renewed its old contact with Yale on a month-to-month basis. Still, after over 70 bargaining sessions, the two parties have yet to reach a consensus due to disagreements over health benefits. In a personal letter delivered to Salovey on Thursday, Rich Simons, president of the Yale Police Benevolent Association, requested that Salovey monitor the remaining negotiations to assure that progress continues.
“We believe your oversight of the process will ensure a successful conclusion which [will] result in a mutually satisfactory, fair and equitable Collective Bargaining Agreement,” the letter said.
In the letter, Simons said that a major point of contention is the diminution of prescription drug benefits. He wrote that during collective bargaining in 2009, Local 34 and Local 35 — Yale’s unions for its service, clerical, technical and maintenance workers — and the University agreed to change its prescription drug plan policy to decrease benefits. At that time, Yale’s senior advisor for benefits planning implemented the same change for YPBA members, without their knowledge, Simons wrote. He added that the police union only became aware of this “violation” during 2016 contract negotiations.
Simons said that Yale’s refusal to reinstate the benefit is impeding the successful conclusion of contract negotiations.
When sent the YPBA letter addressed to Salovey, Karen Peart, Yale’s director of external communications, did not comment on reinstating the benefit. But she told the News that the University has made “attractive contract proposals” to the union and parties are continuing to discuss the issues raised at the officers’ union rally.
“The University takes pride in the department and has always strongly supported the police officers, whether that’s in wages, benefits or recognizing outstanding work,” Peart told the News.
Despite the contention, Simons did acknowledge that over the 70 bargaining sessions, much progress has been achieved, and a “myriad of issues” have been resolved.
In early September, John Grottole, one of the union’s lead negotiators, told the News that retiree health care, specifically disagreements on premium co-shares and Medicare Part B, was the “real, potentially contentious issue.” The previous proposals required YPBA retirees to pay premium co-shares and eliminated reimbursement for Medicare Part B premiums. Grotolle said that if Yale refused to either withdraw their proposal or compensate the union with pension improvements, then the union is prepared to take job action, which could mean many things — including a strike.
The University has since withdrawn its proposals on retiree health care benefits, according to Simons.
Since the withdrawal, no strike has occurred. And in the YPBA’s letter to Salovey, Simons wrote that during the association’s 30-year history, the YPBA has never engaged in labor strike action, and has “diligently sought to confine [their] concerted activities to actions which did not interrupt police protection and service to the Yale community.” He called their commitment to protecting Yale “inviolate.”
Yale police officers are among the highest paid in the state, with excellent benefits and retirement plans, including retiree health, the Child Scholarship Plan and Yale Homebuyer Program, Peart said.
At this time, Simons said, he doesn’t know when the union will meet with the University to discuss outstanding issues to settle the contract. Peart said that the University remains hopeful that the officers’ union will continue to work with Yale to reach a settlement.
The Yale Police Department is located on 101 Ashmun St. Salovey’s Office, Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall is located on 1 Prospect St.
Sammy Westfall | firstname.lastname@example.org