Yale Unions To Vote Workers
Consider Strike Authorization
By WILLIAM WEIR, Courant Staff Writer
NEW HAVEN -- Amid charges that Yale has done nothing
to change a 60-year history of bad labor relations,
three unions representing more than 4,000 university
workers will vote today on whether to take the first
step toward a strike.
The three unions representing clerical, maintenance
and food service workers, Local 34, Local 35 and District
1199, will each vote on whether to authorize their negotiating
committees to call a strike.
Union officials stressed that such authorization doesn't
necessarily mean there will be a strike. Union leaders
said earlier this summer that they were looking at a
strike sometime in October should the measure pass.
But Tuesday they said there was no timeline.
At a press conference Tuesday on the Yale campus, union
officials said they want to see wholesale changes in
how the university and the unions communicate. Only
then, they said, can specific issues be adequately addressed.
Officials of District 1199, which represents 150 food
service workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital, want to
expand into other hospital departments but union member
Ray Milici said Yale administrators have "refused
to even talk to us about the issue."
Though workers didn't bring up the unionization of
graduate student employees Tuesday, the issue has long
been a contentious one.
In an open letter sent last week to faculty, staff
and students, university President Richard Levin suggested
that the unions' support for the graduate student workers
and for the expansion of District 1199 has distracted
them from their job of securing contracts for the employees
represented by Local 34 and Local 35.
Laura Smith, president of Local 34, said she was hopeful
last year that relations would improve when the university
hired a consultant. Though the consultant issued a report,
she said, the university has largely ignored it.
Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the university has held
several bargaining sessions at the urging of the consulting
firm and offered proposals based on its recommendations.
Robert Proto, president of Local 35, charged that Levin
hasn't attended any of the bargaining sessions and that
Vice President Robert Culver has attended only a few.
This, he said, indicates that Yale isn't serious about
changing its relations with the unions.
"Our members are angry," he said. "Our
members are going to vote tomorrow because our members
are serious about change."
In his letter, Levin wrote that the administration
has been trying vainly to improve communications.
"Reluctantly, I have concluded that the unions'
leaders are more interested in preparing for confrontation
during the academic year than in discussing and resolving
the contract issues that remain," he stated in
Levin also stated that the administration offered a
six-year contract with salary increases of more than
6 percent a year for the employees of Local 34. Local
35 employees would receive salary increases of more
than 3 percent. Both unions would also receive pension
increases between 8 and 13 percent.
Though she has some questions about how those figures
were calculated, Deborah Chernoff, a spokeswoman for
the unions, said the workers' concerns are bigger than
any contract specifics.
"The focus here is that there is a long history
of dysfunctional labor relations," she said. "Eleven
strikes in 60 years is nothing to be proud of, for either
When two unions went
on one-month strikes in 1996, Conroy said, management
staff took over some of the work and Yale students were
given money to purchase food off campus.