By Joseph Nichols, Staff Writer
Yale’s union for graduate student workers, Local 33, which remains unrecognized by the university, has set off a process with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to become recognized as a union after more than 30 years.
This would become the 14th graduate student union at a private university, 12 of which have been created since 2015.
Before Local 33’s creation, graduate student workers have made efforts to unionize. Since the 1980s, Yale graduate students have attempted to receive recognition as a union. Local 33’s website states: “In the 1986-87 academic year, when Yale grad workers formed a group called TA Solidarity, Yale did not provide free health insurance to graduate student workers, grad workers were paid monthly for nine months out of the year and the maximum stipend pay was $7,500 per year. Many graduate student workers made less than that amount, or even nothing at all.”
Local 33’s petition to become recognized as an official union garnered 3,000 graduate student signatures, the most in Yale’s history of union petitions. These large numbers, seventy five percent of graduate student workers support a union—more than the 30% needed to create a union vote and the 50% required to authorize a union among Local 33.
Members of Local 33 traveled with the 3,000 signatures to an office of the NLRB to start the process of becoming recognized as a union with a representative of Local 33 calling out to the university to remain neutral: “Yale has still not publicly committed to neutrality during the process… we hope that Yale does not delay during this process and gets back to us so that we can vote.”
Yale officials have yet to release a statement on whether or not they will remain neutral in the ongoing unionization process; however, many Local 33 representatives have also stated they believe the university might take an anti-union position since the university has taken similar stances in the past.
An email sent by Lynn Cooley, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, provided information about Local 33 gaining momentum. According to Yale Daily News, the email informed faculty that “unionization could force students into paying dues and insinuated that unionization could cause the Graduate School of Arts and Science Student Government to lose power. The email also encouraged students to call campus security or police if they felt threatened by union organizers. ”
One Local 33 organizer Arita Acharya continued to request that the university quicken its progress.
“One of the tactics used to prevent unionization is delaying the process. The University can slow-walk the entire process which makes it more difficult for all of us to exercise our right to cast our ballots for unionization,” Acharya said.
The NLRB is currently reviewing the 3,000 signatures and petition, as well as validating that the process is sound before they meet with Yale and Local 33 to describe the unionization process and establish how both parties will move forward in the procedure.