At Yale, Unions Sticking Together

“The strike has been anticlimactic,” first-year Catherine Izard wrote in an e-mail. “There has been almost no interruption of daily life. I have yet to have to cross a picket line.”

The first provision of the contract proposed by Locals 34 and 35 mandates the university’s recognition of any union that can demonstrate majority interest in representation by a union-conducted vote.

By law, the university does not have to recognize new unions until they hold a successful secret election by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The provision in the contract covers major issues motivating the GESO and SEIU strikes—GESO wants to be recognized by the university while the SEIU Local wants to cover about 1,800 more hospital workers.

But Yale spokesperson Tom Conroy said there will be no deal until Locals 34 and 35 drop the provision.


Moreover, the provision would not be binding on Yale-New Haven Hospital, Conroy said, citing an NLRB ruling stating that affiliated hospital workers are not university employees.

But union leaders said they intend to stick together.

“It’s the first time that you’ve had such a diverse group of people all walk out together,” said Anita Seth, chair of GESO and a fourth-year history graduate student.

Though Locals 34 and 35 have more widespread support for their positions, the groups joined forces with graduate students and hospital workers to capitalize on “strength in numbers,” union leaders said.

Locals 34 and 35 “will have a harder time winning...without the graduate student employees,” said Bill Meyerson, a spokesperson for the Federation of Hospital and Union Employees (FHUE)—the unions’ umbrella organization.

Organized Living

The approximately 1,350 GESO members—out of a total of 2,400 graduate students—are striking, though they are not an official union.

The group’s right to organize has been one of the week’s most controversial issues.

Izard, like many undergraduates, said she does not sympathize with organizing graduate students.

“I think GESO is ridiculous,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Frankly, GESO looks like a collection of spoiled brats.”