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Contract still unresolved, union strikers spend five days out in the cold

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2003 - Summer


During a week of subfreezing temperatures, a heavy rain and a blizzard, thousands of Yale employees, including hundreds at the medical school, took to the streets in March to strike over contract negotiations that had stalled over wages, job security and pension benefits. The strike had clerical and technical workers from Local 34 and service and maintenance employees from Local 35 sharing picket lines with hundreds of graduate students from GESO, the Graduate Employees & Students Organization, which is seeking union recognition from the university. The unions also support the right of hospital workers to unionize.

Over the course of the weeklong strike, the unions held rallies at Woolsey Hall, Phelps Gate and the medical school, led by supporters including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, local clergy and local and national union leaders. Disruptions at the medical school appeared to be minimal—58 percent of Local 34 workers remained on the job.

Each side blamed the other for the impasse. Union leaders said the university had refused to budge on its offers. The university accused the unions of linking contract negotiations with GESO’s organizing efforts and with a drive by the Service Employees International Union to organize service and other nonprofessional employees at Yale-New Haven Hospital. The university opposes unionization of graduate students and says the hospital is a separate entity from the university and that workers there must decide whether to unionize.

In April Local 34 rejected the university’s 10-year contract proposal, and in early May graduate students rejected GESO as their bargaining agent.