Child’s Play Highlights Potential Negotiating Issue

Markeshia Ricks PhotosMembers of UNITE HERE Local 33 didn’t have energy for much on the eighth day of a fast to push Yale University to the negotiating table, but the young and the young at heart made up the difference.

The eight Yale fasters — newly unionized graduate student teachers protesting Yale’s refusal at this point to negotiate a first contract — stayed close Wednesday afternoon to the makeshift encampment their supporters have erected at Beinecke Plaza, trying not to exert too much energy after more than a week without solid food. Meanwhile a contingent of future labor union organizers was hard at work, chalking out messages urging the university to negotiate.

“This is a Yale building,” 11-year-old Lily Sutton wrote. “Everyone is treated fairly. Or at least they should be.”

Mira Barocci, who is 10 and a half,  and 11-year-old Hanna Ziesche decided a rhyming prose summed the situation up best:

Yale is bad.
It makes us mad.
We’re so sad.
But we would be glad,
If you would just negotiate.

Faster Charles Decker of the political science department said graduate students and their children were invited to come and support the protest to remind people that Local 33 intends to make better child care a focus of negotiations.

“We’re not asking for the keys to the castle,” he said. “But we do believe that the university has a duty to collaborate and solve these issues.”

Fellow faster Robin Canavan, a PhD student teacher in geology and geophysics, said people assume graduate students are all fresh out of undergraduate studies with few needs. But she said some students, like her, relocated their lives from across the country (she came to Yale after finishing a master’s degree from the University of Wyoming) or from across the world.

She said there often are not a lot of options for graduate students with a spouse, children or both. For instance, she said, Yale insurance will cover your family if you have a child, but it won’t cover your spouse if you don’t. She said Local 33 would like to bring that issue to the negotiation table if it ever gets there.

It would also want to negotiate what she said is an arbitrary reclassification of certain disciplines, which excludes some graduate students from a new sixth-year funding program. She said some graduate students ended up losing 40 percent of their income because the program assumes that they can obtain grants. But those grants are competitive and will only be more so in the future, particularly under President Donald Trump’s administration should there be cuts to agencies like NASA.

“If we’d have a chance to sit at the table and negotiate,” she said, “I would have wanted something different.”

Salovey Weighs In

Meanwhile, Yale President Peter Salovey offered the university’s side of the ongoing controversy in the following university-wide email:

To the Yale Community,

 

I write to provide an update on the activities of UNITE HERE-Local 33, which seeks to represent the graduate student teaching fellows in eight of the fifty-six departments in Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. As many of you know, in January, the NLRB regional director in Boston ordered elections, which were held in February. Yale has requested that the National Labor Relations Board in Washington review the regional director’s decision. We are currently awaiting their ruling.

Yale appealed this decision because we are deeply troubled by the undemocratic method of department-by-department unionization chosen by Local 33, a method unprecedented in higher education. At our peer institutions, including Harvard and Columbia, elections were held across the entire graduate school, with several thousand students voting. But at Yale, Local 33’s non-inclusive strategy resulted in only 228 of the 2,600 Ph.D. students in the Graduate School casting eligible votes.

The question of whether a labor union and federal labor law will govern the relationship between graduate students and faculty members is too important to be decided by 9 percent of graduate students, or by a small group of activists. Yale’s democratically-elected Graduate Student Assembly voted last fall to oppose Local 33 and its micro-unit approach. We owe a responsibility to all graduate students, to the Graduate School, and to the university to await the outcome of the ongoing legal process that Local 33 began—not to short-circuit the process as the demonstrators have demanded.

I am concerned that eight of our students have said they will continue to fast unless we give in to their demands. At my request, Yale Health doctors have visited the fasting students, offering advice and care. I hope these individuals will decide to end their fast before medical intervention is needed. They are, above all else, our students, and their well-being is my foremost concern.

I strongly support the value of free expression on this important question, as on all other questions. But threats of self-harm have no place in rational debate when an established dispute resolution process still exists. Respect for law and legal process, civil argument and persuasion: these are the hallmarks of airing and resolving disagreements at a university.

Sincerely,

Peter Salovey
President and Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology

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posted by: wendy1 on May 4, 2017  8:35am

Yale’s obscene greed and heartless treatment of 0f clients, students, teachers, workers, nurses, etc…..

I am willing to hire dancers or musicians to entertain Local 33.  Call me at 203 498 7759.  So far no takers although I inspired Pete Berger PhD.

posted by: BeaverhillTom on May 4, 2017  9:07am

“Fellow faster Robin Canavan, a PhD student teacher in geology and geophysics, said people assume graduate students are all fresh out of undergraduate studies with few needs. But she said some students, like her, relocated their lives from across the country (she came to Yale after finishing a master’s degree from the University of Wyoming) or from across the world.”

So Yale, or any other university, is obligated to pay relocation costs? This is a buyer’s market, and students are the buyer. Most grad students admitted to Yale have many options, e.g., Stanford, Harvard, UC-Berkeley, etc. A student can consider relocation costs when choosing graduate school.

“She said there often are not a lot of options for graduate students with a spouse, children or both. For instance, she said, Yale insurance will cover your family if you have a child, but it won’t cover your spouse if you don’t. She said Local 33 would like to bring that issue to the negotiation table if it ever gets there.”

I think the idea is that a spouse would have employment that would provide health insurance. Why is Yale obligated to provide coverage for the spouse of a student?

This dog will not hunt. These trivial demands are the reason why the majority of graduate students do not support unionization. What most readers of the NHI do not realize is that a student in the sciences is GUARANTEED FIVE YEARS OF SUPPORT. That is 10 semesters, plus paid summers. Among those 10 semesters they are obligated to teach only 3 or 4 semesters. The other 6 or 7 semesters they are PAID IN FULL to do their research. If they teach beyond the 3 to 4 semesters they are paid AN EXTRA amount in the neighborhood of $5000.00! There is no “an arbitrary reclassification of certain disciplines,” in the sciences a Ph.D. student is expected to finish in 5 years, and have published 2 to 3 papers. While these students have been focusing on Local 33, other students have published papers and down their good work.

posted by: Statestreeter on May 4, 2017  12:04pm

The fastest need to get on every thing clear. The people don’t support you.  You get free tuition, 30,000 plus a year and healthcare. Your pathetic examples like how far you traveled is so ignorant it’s beyond belief. There’s a lot of people who travel far to come to Yale. You know why? Because it’s Yale. Next time stay closer to home.  It’s comical watching you sit on your couches under your boathouse tent drinking Fiji water getting visits from all the equally out of touch politicos.  No, Melissa is wrong, the world is not watching. They have real issues to worry about. It’s not even a hunger strike.  It’s a until we get real hungry strike.  The wheel chairs make it look even more foolish.

You can have little kids write all the poems that their parents tell them to but that doesn’t change the fact that what your doing is meaningless.  Yale isn’t that concerned about your little enclave. If they were they would just tear it down. It actually works in their favor.  I think you should all take lie detector tests to prove that you really haven’t eaten anything. I’ll guarantee you would fail. 

So again I’ll give you some advice.  If you are really that crucial to Yale then what you should do is walk off the job and go on strike. But you won’t because of what you, Yale and everybody else knows.  You need Yale, Yale doesn’t need you. You would be replaced in a minute with the 90% of doc students that didn’t vote for you. Give each other participation trophies and go home.

posted by: JohnW on May 4, 2017  12:50pm

One can argue about the need for a graduate student union and people have been doing so at Yale for a long time.  However, the issue with the Local 33 election is whether the need is so dire that it an okay example of the ends justifying the means.  As succinctly put in the statement from Mr Salovey, this election strategy was the equivalent of gerrymandering.  So, if one is comfortable with politicians doing this to grab and maintain partisan power, then I guess this does not bother you.  But, if you think this is bad for our democracy writ large, then you have to see this situation also as a vote for corruption.  Can’t have it both ways - either one stands on principal and is for a fair and reasonable process in things large and small - or not.  IMO - Yale has every right to appeal the regional NLRB’s decision to Washington - as the vote seems ridiculous and hardly representative of the student body.  No amount of celebrities, politicians or cute kids is going to change the basic issue of a very flawed election process.  If a graduate student union is to come to pass, then it must be from a vote that represents all graduate students, period.  Otherwise, it will never really be legitimate and will continue to be problematic for students faculty and the community for a long time.