Gleeful graduate student workers at Yale University wasted no time in filing petitions with the National Labor Relations Board for union certification following the long awaited NLRB decision to restore collective bargaining rights to graduate employees at private universities.
Despite majority votes and card collections over the past 25 years, the Yale University administration has repeatedly refused to recognize the right of the graduate student workers to a union, claiming they are simply students despite the paychecks they receive.
The decades long struggle, supported by Yale clerical and technical workers in Local 34, service and maintenance workers in Local 35, undergraduate students, elected officials and the community, reached a high point earlier this year when UNITE HERE president D. Taylor issued a charter to the graduate student workers for UNITE HERE Local 33.
Now Local 33 is seeking the right to vote for recognition and bargaining rights with Yale University.
The landmark NLRB decision was issued on August 23 in favor of graduate employees seeking to unionize at Columbia University.
“We are proud to represent the members of Local 33 as they take this historic step forward,” said Taylor.
Graduate teachers at Yale want a union in order to resolve longstanding issues around teaching and funding security, mental health care, equity for people of color and women, and affordable child care.
“I’ve had to pay $4,000 per year for my wife to have health care," said Mehmet Dogan, a graduate teacher in the Physics Department. “I want a union so that we can negotiate better health care benefits.”
“I commend the Board on restoring grad teachers’ rights at last,” said Bob Proto, President of Local 35. “Our members who clean Yale’s classrooms have a say in their working conditions, it’s past time for the people who teach in those classrooms to have a voice too.”
The petition for union recognition comes as Locals 34 and 35 are in the midst of negotiating their own contracts which expire in January. The addition of hundreds of graduate student workers to the union rolls at Yale bolsters the ability to negotiate strong contracts for all University workers.