Union Activists Plan to Crash Yale Graduation

Group pledges to join hunger-striking grad students to fight 'unionbusting'

Members of the Graduate Employee and Students Organization-UNITE HERE protest to unionize graduate students at private universities / AP
May 18, 2017

Graduate students and labor activists from across the country plan to picket Yale's graduation ceremony on Monday in support of graduate students trying to form a union.

An organization called X-Campus Rank and File said it will assemble at Yale's commencement ceremony to hold a "forum on resisting Ivy League-led unionbusting in the Trump era." The group hopes its event will drown out the cheers greeting commencement speaker Theo Epstein, a 1995 Yale graduate and baseball executive wh0 helped break World Series curses for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.

"Graduate student workers from across the Northeast will join in solidarity with hunger-striking members of Local 33—the union for Yale University graduate workers—to protest the coordinated attack on unionization led by Ivy League administrators," the group said in a release. "At campuses across the country, democratic campaigns for unions by graduate TAs and RAs are stalled, as university administrations throw up spurious legal obstacles in anticipation of Trump policy changes."

Yale became the focal point of campus unrest in the dispute over unionization after numerous graduate students launched a hunger strike in April. The activists hope to take advantage of the 2016 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision that lifted the ban on organizing teachers assistants and researchers at private universities. Students in eight graduate departments voted to unionize in February under the umbrella of UNITE HERE, a union that already represents campus workers. The university has refused to bargain with the union while its case makes its way through the NLRB.

Union organizer Aaron Greenberg, who did not respond to a request for comment, has speculated that the university is waiting for President Donald Trump to appoint a Republican majority to the NLRB in the hope it will reverse the 2016 decision.

"By refusing to bargain with us, Yale is taking advantage of the Trump administration and acting like a traditional employer. But it isn’t one. It’s responsible to us. When the administration strays onto the wrong path, the Yale community has a powerful role to play in correcting its course," he wrote in a Yale Daily News op-ed.

Yale, which did not respond to a request for comment, has taken issue with "Local 33's micro-unit strategy," pointing out that 90 percent of the school's 2,6000 doctoral students were not allowed to vote in the election. It called bargaining with any unit that does not represent the voices of all grad students "premature."

"Yale respectfully notes that this request is premature because the legal questions raised by Local 33’s unprecedented 'micro-unit' strategy remain unanswered," the university said in an April statement. " 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."

X-Campus said in its press release that universities are waging a "crackdown against the graduate unionization drive" in order to continue exploiting graduate students. The group hopes its protest will force Yale to comply with UNITE HERE's demands rather than continue legal appeals.

"Administrators at these universities are now using every available delay tactic until a Trump majority sits on the NLRB," the group said in a release. "At Yale and Columbia, the administrations are refusing to bargain with democratically-elected unions."

Yale did not respond to request for comment.

Published under: Unions , Unite Here