May 26, 2017

Dominique Briggins

Thousands Protest in Solidarity with Graduate Teachers at Yale’s Commencement

“One. Two. Three. Four. We will not wait anymore! Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Yale should negotiate!”

On Monday, thousands of working people, advocates, and community members– including allies from the Jobs With Justice network—echoed this chant at Yale’s commencement. The crowd marched down the streets of New Haven in solidarity with the university’s graduate teachers’ union demand that Yale negotiate a fair contract with them.

Graduate employees voted to join in union in February to stop sexual harassment on campus, address the marginalization of people of color, and gain the ability to set equitable and sustainable work standards. But the university administration and trustees have refused to negotiate collectively with them.

Robin Canavan is co-chair of Local 33 – UNITE HERE, the union of graduate teachers at Yale. She says that the university continues to delay negotiating with their union of working people “hoping that President [Donald] Trump will appoint anti-labor representatives” to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Robin and her colleagues anticipate that Trump’s future appointees to the NLRB will overturn the 2016 ruling that grants graduate teachers who work for private universities the right to organize on campuses nationwide. Since then, graduate employees joined in union at prominent institutions such as Harvard, Columbia, the University of Connecticut, and Cornell University. Graduate employees at New York University secured a contract with the school.

Yale’s motto, “Lux et Veritas,” translates to “light and truth.” In that spirit, Yale graduate teachers and their supporters are shedding light and truth on the university’s refusal to negotiate fairly with them.

Over the last few months, they’ve picketed, occupied their campus, organized throughout New Haven, and engaged in acts of civil disobedience to drum up pressure on university officials to work with them. Eight graduate teachers of Local 33 bravely committed to a hunger strike. The fasters, who just ended their strike after four weeks, galvanized incredible press coverage and attention for their cause.

Sarah Decker also is a member and elected leader of Local 33 who participated in the commencement protest. She explained the transformational impact Yale could have if the university recognized her union: “With its wealth and status, Yale has more freedom of action than anyone else in this system. Its leaders could decide to stem the tide of insecurity in today’s academia and economy.”

Even as the school year comes to a close, Local 33 will persist until Yale comes to the bargaining table to negotiate a contract that values their contributions.

You can help support Yale graduate employees stand up for their right to negotiate a contract over their terms of work. Sign the UNITE HERE Local 33 petition to Yale President Peter Salovey.

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