At Yale, Unions Sticking Together

As Yale University students pack their bags and head home for spring break today, workers will return to the picket lines for the fifth day in a row.

Though the strike will not continue during the school’s two-week vacation, the university and its two largest unions will return to the bargaining table next Tuesday.

And at a press conference scheduled for today, union leaders are expected to announce whether the strike will resume after the break.

Thousands of strikers have been picketing through bad weather all week, culminating in a rally yesterday that took place on closed-off College Street at the heart of campus.

Picketing turnout was largely unaffected by blizzard conditions, according to union organizers.


Approximately 500 students—many of whom walked out of classes—joined protesters to teach about labor issues in impromptu classrooms on the street yesterday, according to student organizers. Some students from New York University (NYU) and Columbia University also lent their support.

And many labor activists from across the country called or wrote e-mails to the university, including members of Harvard’s Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM).

While university officials denied that the strike—the eighth at Yale in the last 35 years and one of the largest ever at a university—will affect bargaining, the unions have managed to focus local and national attention on their cause.

At a rally yesterday, former Fletcher University Professor Cornel R. West ’74 addressed protesters, the latest in a line of celebrity speakers putting the protest in the national spotlight—and in the front sections of The New York Times and other national publications.

The striking parties—Locals 34 and 35 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE), the Graduate Employees and Students Organization (GESO) and Service Employees Industrial Union (SEIU) District 1199—are fighting for a diverse array of causes, including wage increases and the right of graduate students to organize.

But university officials said they will only negotiate with Locals 34 and 35, Yale’s clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers.

The Strength of the Week

The strike has forced the university to shut down all residential dining halls and students have been issued rebate checks to purchase food off campus.

Many professors have opted to move classes off campus to avoid picket lines and some classes and sections taught by striking teaching assistants have been cancelled.

But many students said they had expected more disruption.