Stalling For Trump?

Lucy Gellman PhotoYale’s new graduate student teachers’ union saw a deadline pass Wednesday, so it set a new one.

The union, UNITE HERE Local 33, won election to represent student-teachers in six academic departments on Feb. 23. Hundreds of union members and supporters rallied Wednesday afternoon on Beinecke Plaza demanding the Yale now negotiate a first contract.

The union issued a similar demand a week earlier, setting Wednesday as the deadline. At that event, union representatives delivered a 10,000-plus signature petition for the union to Woodbridge Hall and demanded that the university enter negotiations by 5:30 p.m. on April 12. Of those 10,000 signatures, Local 33 Co-Chair Robin Canavan said around 6,600 came from members of the New Haven community.

But the April 12 deadline passed with Yale refusing to begin negotiations. Instead, Yale has returned to the National labor Relations Board (NLRB) to seek review of a ruling that allowed Local 33 to pursue it’s “micro-strategy” of representing just some departments, where it could win an election — not all 50 departments as a unit .

At Wednesday’s rally, union leaders promised to take “action” if Yale doesn’t meet a new deadline of April 25 to start negotiations. They didn’t elaborate on what kind of “action” that would entail, including whether that might mean a strike.

According to Yale, it’s still too early to start negotiations. After Local 33 gained a toehold in elections earlier this year, the university returned to the national arm of the NLRB to contest Local 33’s micro-unit strategy for a second time, a decision that is still pending. The university also has a hearing with the regional offices of the NLRB later this month to address several “challenge” ballots cast by graduate students who may not have been eligible to vote. Those ballots affected two of eight departments—Political Science and East Asian Languages & Literatures—at the time of the election. That hearing is scheduled for April 24 in Hartford.

In the meantime, Yale has called Local 33’s demands for negotiations “premature.”

“As a result of Local 33’s micro-unit strategy, approximately 90 percent of the 2,600 doctoral students in the Graduate School were not permitted to vote,” wrote Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy in a release Wednesday afternoon. “Yale is still engaged with Local 33 before the NLRB.  The university respects the legal process for resolving labor issues while this case continues to move forward.”

At Wednesday’s rally, attendees from Local 33, established Locals 34 and 35, New Haven Rising, and Connecticut’s state and federal delegations filled the hall’s patio and surrounding Beinecke Plaza with cheers of “Don’t hesitate, negotiate!” and orange, blue and white signs that read “Yale/Negotiate/Now.”

Addressing the crowd, Canavan claimed that Yale is “delaying because they are hoping that President [Donald] Trump will appoint anti-labor representatives to the National Labor Relations Board” to rule against the union. Citing last week’s petition and a letter from Connecticut’s federal delegation in support of Local 33, she called on Yale to “respect the decisive outcome” of February’s NLRB-moderated election and enter negotiations with the departments of East Asian Languages & Literatures, English, Geology & Geophysics, History, History of Art, Mathematics, Political Science and Sociology.

As she ceded the mic to city labor advocates who have joined Local 33’s cause, a sea of orange signs bobbed across the plaza. Local 34 President Laurie Kennington pumped her fists in support, the crowd cheering wildly as she declared that Local 34 had also been a long fight (including a strike) to get Yale to the negotiating table after winning union recognition. “Disrespect to one union is disrespect to all unions!” she said. Local 35 Steward Tyisha Walker also sought to put the university on notice, calling the failure to negotiate reminiscent of the university’s long battle with its oldest union.

“If you don’t sit down and negotiate, we’re gonna have a problem,” she said. “Stop being a coward.”

Echoing Local 33 President Aaron Greenberg’s comment that “when we won, we won the right to sit down” and negotiate, Canavan also gave the university a new deadline: April 25, one day after the challenge ballot hearing is set to begin in Hartford. If the university “does not come to the table” by that date, she said, grad students “will act.”

Asked to clarify her statement after the rally, she said that “I just think we will keep insisting that they will come negotiate. It’s really on them.”

“We will act,” added Greenberg. “What that looks like—we’ll see.” Neither he nor Canavan would comment on whether graduate students would consider a strike.

Speaking with the Independent after the rally, Conroy dismissed the claim that the university is waiting on new Trump appointees to sway the NLRB. “The university has maintained a position for decades that it’s not in the best interest of the grad students [to unionize],” he said. “We have steadfastly held that position when the White House was occupied by both major parties.”

“We don’t know what the NLRB will say, but we certainly do not believe that we cannot prevail,” he added.

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posted by: JCFremont on April 13, 2017  8:50am

I think the first thing a graduate student union is for Yale and the Graduate Students to understand that money paid to students including stipends is most often taxable and needs to be claimed on Federal and State Tax Returns. The Yale Health Plan paid by scholarships or grants is not part of qualified tuition and fees. Stipends, money that is probably going to your East Rock or Wooster Square Landlords is also income even though there is no tax reporting tax document. I’d really like to see a “study” on how much of this money goes unreported nationwide?

posted by: wendy1 on April 13, 2017  9:08am

I totally support Local 33 and these wonderful participants. Unions rescue workers and act as protection from multinational or national corporations who are obscenely greedy.  Why is Salovey going to hang out in DC to negotiate with boomer villains, “neoliberal perverts”, etc.?  Why is Yale Corp. heavily invested in Singapore, the most expensive city in the world run by a dictator.  Believe me, it is not to spread democracy.

I hope all you kids paying through the nose at Yale get on the dime and cry foul.  Brave students and professors must wake up and fight for social justice….for Yale, for the city, for the country, for Earth.  Wake up or we are goners.

posted by: Ravenclaw on April 13, 2017  9:47am

The real labor scandal at Yale is not the status of its graduate students, who generally receive a free education along with a pretty decent compensation package, but the status of its postdoctoral fellows, who are considered to be trainees (like students) even though their duties are entirely professional.

As for the graduate students, the university’s response can be quite simple. If student status is separate from the work performed by graduate assistants (which is what the union argues), then the two roles can be decoupled. Becoming a graduate student in a unionized department no longer ensures employment; students need to apply for positions as lecturers, research assistants, and so forth alongside other applicants - with no special preference.

I think it would be found that the New Haven area contains many persons who are qualified to run seminars, conduct laboratory or library research, and so forth.

posted by: 1644 on April 16, 2017  5:57am

Raven: 1, Yes, Yale’s brief in the Columbia case noted that it could hire adjuncts for far less than it spends on supporting doctoral candidates.
2. Yale’s post doctoral fellows generally get between $47K and $55K, more than the $30K base for doctoral candidates.  The scale is set by NIH. (Some fellowships pay a straight $55K, with funds for research as well.
In general, they perform research only, and do not teach.  Many of the fellowships may prohibit teaching.  In this, they are distinct from faculty who are expected to teach, research, and serve in administrative capacities (search committees, etc.).
3. Local 33’s major complaint seems to be lack of support for those students who fail to complete their doctoral work in a timely manner, those whom they call “senior graduate teachers”.  Perhaps if these students spent more time on their dissertations and less on agitation they would be further along in their studies.  If departments are forced to support students beyond six years, I expect that they drop more students for lack of progress.

Wendy: Yale-NUS was Levin’s idea, and one reason he is no longer President.  I don’t think there is a lot of Yale money there, mostly NUS.