Yale graduate teachers begin fast to push for union contract negotiations

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Eight Yale University graduate teachers say they are taking turns not eating to try to pressure school officials to negotiate with them. They have voted to unionize, but they say Yale will not negotiate.

Graduate teachers have set up a temporary structure they call 33 Wall Street near the university president’s office.

“It will continue until we sit down to negotiate with the university,” said Aaron Greenberg, a graduate teacher and chair of Local 33-UNITE HERE, the graduate teachers’ union.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Yale and New Haven communities held a demonstration of support for Yale graduate teachers at 33 Wall Street.

“It gives me a lot of strength to see the community behind us, to see so many of my colleagues out in support, faculty out in support,” said Charles Decker, a Yale graduate teacher.

Decker is getting his strength from support, not from food. He has not eaten in more than a day. He is one of the graduate teachers taking part in an indefinite fast they’re calling the Fast Against Slow. They want union contract negotiations.

“They tell me to wait and I’m tired of waiting,” Decker said. “If I need to wait a little bit longer so be it, but I’m waiting without eating.”

Graduate teachers voted in favor of unionization in February, in elections administered by the National Labor Relations Board. Local 33-UNITE HERE says the Yale administration refuses to begin contract negotiations.

“This would mean a seat at the table. This would mean a more democratic Yale,” said Greenberg. “This would mean graduate teachers actually being able to negotiate over the terms of their work.”

The graduate teachers are hoping the indefinite fast would make that happen. The university said in a statement that the action is unwarranted by the circumstances and the school strongly urges students not to put their health at risk. But graduate teachers say they had no choice.

“I hope Yale will do the right thing,” said Julia Powers, a Yale graduate teacher. “They’ve taken long enough and so I hope they will agree to negotiate with the unions.”

In a statement to News 8 Yale said, “the University and UNITE HERE-Local 33 are jointly engaged with the National Labor Relations Board to resolve remaining issues concerning the unionization effort. Yale will continue to respect this legal process, and accordingly has advised Local 33 that its request for collective bargaining is premature.”

Graduate teachers held other demonstrations in New Haven earlier Wednesday. More than a dozen graduate teachers were detained and charged after one of them.

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