NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — For nearly three weeks the battle has waged between Yale University’s administration and student teachers looking to unionize. Students voted back in February to form Local 33 but the university is appealing that vote and has refused to enter into contract negotiations.
Supporters of Local 33 have set-up camp on Beineke Plaza, are taking part in hunger fasts and have held rallies and protests throughout the campus. Last week they even blocked traffic by sitting in the middle of major intersections.
“That is what is really concerning us now, for the safety of the community and the safety of the city to be perfectly frank,” said Eileen O’Connor, Vice President of Communications at Yale University.
Yale administration says the way in which student teacher’s voted to unionize was unfair and undemocratic. Breaking down the numbers, Yale says there are 2600 doctoral students and only 157 of them voted in favor of the union.
“We don’t see the graduate students as employees, we see them as students because they teach only four semesters of their twelve semesters,” said O’Connor. “That teaching is required for them to have a career in academia. It’s a training and when they’re teaching it’s only part-time during the semester.”
Yale says each doctoral student receives free tuition and free healthcare in addition to a $30-thousand stipend each year. The university estimates they spend about $375-thousand dollars on each doctoral student to complete their program.
Robin Canavan is the co-chair of Local 33 and says they legally won the right to form a union and says Yale is obligated to begin negotiations.
“They are using their wealth to pay union busting lawyers to stall in hopes that the Trump administration will take away the rights that we have won to be represented by a union as workers,” said Canavan.
Yale’s Commencement Ceremony is just one week away. Administration is aware of efforts to bring the union debate to the festivities.
“We’re just hoping that the students themselves will realize that this is a day for families and for Yale graduating students, including graduate students who are getting their Ph-D’s to celebrate that achievement,” said O’Connor.
While not giving specifics Canvavan says they will indeed be there.
“We will be here joined by our allies on Commencement to hold them accountable, to do the right thing,” said Canavan.
O’Connor wanted to stress that Yale is not anti-union, telling News 8 they fully support other labor unions on campus.