Ellie Park, Photography Editor

As the Yale police union and the University approach their 14th month of contract negotiations, the police union promised to “take full advantage” of Bulldog Days and Commencement, according to Mike Hall, president of the union. The union has a long history of protesting visitor events during active contract negotiations with Yale. 

Hall accused Yale of engaging in “strong-arm tactics,” namely asking the union to move onto economic proposals, ignoring their approximately 24 open non-economic proposals. He said the members of the Yale Police Benevolent Association — the police union — were not willing to abandon these non-economic proposals. 

The YPBA is now threatening to cancel their monthly renewal contracts with the University and organize outside of the bargaining room if negotiations continue to stall.

The previous contract, which was settled in 2018, took 28 months and over 70 bargaining sessions to settle. The YPBA and Yale have held 53 sessions this cycle.  

“We’re running out of time for someone who’s not listening to us and, in a sense, that would force us to take it away from the table and do what we have to do as a union outside of the bargaining table,” Hall said. “If we’re not being listened to or heard, you know, something’s going to have to give.”

Joe Sarno, Yale’s director of labor relations, wrote in a statement to the News that it is common practice in labor negotiations to focus on non-economic proposals before shifting to economic discussions, but did not directly address Hall’s allegation that the University was ignoring non-economic proposals. Sarno wrote that negotiations between the University and the union have yielded progress, namely in the form of 28 tentative agreements.

While Hall acknowledged that negotiations have been relatively productive, he said that numerous consequential proposals have remained unaddressed. Hall cited YPBA proposals to widen eligibility to benefits for disabled officers and for families of officers killed in the line of duty, as well as Yale’s lackluster 1.75-percent wage increase proposal. When asked if Yale police officers have previously been killed in the line of duty, Hall pointed to two police officers who were wounded, but not killed, in a 1985 shooting

“We are not going to settle the contract without these benefits,” Hall said of the killed-in-the-line-of-duty and long-term disability benefits. 

Sarno declined to elaborate on details of the negotiation process, citing the University’s decision to negotiate at the bargaining table instead of in the press. 

However, Sarno also characterized the union’s proposal to create a 60-day statute of limitations on civilian complaints, which was previously reported by the News, against police misconduct as “not tenable” for the University. He wrote that the proposal is incompatible with best contemporary policing practices and the relationship the Yale Police Department hopes to foster with the Yale and New Haven communities. In October, policing experts criticized the statute of limitations when the News originally reported on the proposal.

Hall said that the civilian complaints proposal has not been discussed at the bargaining table for months.

Sarno also wrote that the University cannot agree to union proposals concerning Yale Police Department rules as it would infringe on the authority of the chief of police, currently Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09, who as a non-rank-and-file officer is not a union member. 

Hall attributed delays in the negotiations to a lack of high-level “decision makers” on Yale’s bargaining team, a common complaint lobbied against the University since the fall. Sarno disputed this claim, stating that the University is following the same staff model as in past negotiations. 

Contract cancellation, a current union threat, allows for collective “job actions.” At their most extreme, “job actions” can amount to coordinated sick days or a strike. Hall did not specify when asked what “job actions” might entail. However, he lamented that engaging in job actions would “jeopardize the safety and security” of the Yale community. During a tumultuous contract negotiation period in 1998, the YPBA organized a widespread sick day and held a “speed-up,” where they gave out as many tickets as possible. 

Glenn Yittig, a Yale patrol officer, said that Yale police officers are essential to the Yale community, even more so due to understaffing within the New Haven Police Department. As the sole breadwinner in a family of five, Yittig said that the stalled negotiations, in combination with the rising cost of living, have placed a financial burden on his family. 

“It’s tough, because we haven’t had a raise since 2022,” Yittig said. “Prices of everything have gone up. Inflation has gone up. I’m definitely not in the same position financially that I was a couple years ago. And it’s about time that we get the contract settled.”

Since contract negotiations began in February 2023, the relationship between the University and the YPBA has been strained. In August, the union received sharp criticism from both University and city officials over the distribution of “fear-mongering” pamphlets to incoming students and their families on move-in day. 

During the fall, YPBA representatives accused the University of a lack of commitment to the negotiation process. In line with other high-visibility protests, the YPBA held a rally on Family Weekend in October, criticizing the 1.75-percent wage increase proposal, high healthcare fees and Yale’s alleged unwillingness to negotiate fairly with the union. 

Hall said that improvements to the long-term disability and killed-in-the-line-of-duty benefits will not only better support officers and their families, but also ensure the Yale Police Department remains a competitive place to work during a nationwide shortage of police officers

Current long-term disability benefits state that once an officer who has been permanently disabled at work turns 65, they receive a pension based solely on their salary when they were originally injured, according to a YPBA proposal obtained by the News. For officers who were injured decades prior, this pension falls short without a cost-of-living adjustment, according to Hall. Currently, a permanently disabled officer only receives a pension with a cost of living adjustment until they turn 65. The proposed change would extend the adjustment through the entire pension.

The YPBA is also trying to loosen limits on benefits for the families of officers killed in the line of duty. Under the current contract, families of officers who had served less than five years do not qualify for any survivor death benefits and families of officers who had served less than 20 years would receive a pension between 12.5 and 50 percent of their salary, according to a YPBA proposal obtained by the News. 

“God forbid a tragedy like that happens, the officer will know his family will be provided for,” Hall said. “Our members feel that Yale has to correct this inequity … A multibillion-dollar corporation, like Yale, could easily do [it].”

Sarno emphasized that the University’s top priority remains the safety and well-being of the Yale community. He wrote that the University is seeking a fair contract with the union as soon as possible. 

The last contract between the YPBA and the University expired on June 30, 2023. 

LAURA OSPINA
Laura Ospina covers Yale-New Haven relations and the Latine community for the City desk. Originally from North Carolina's Research Triangle, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Political Science.