For immediate release
April 25, 2017
Rev. Lawson and other national civil rights leaders back Yale graduate teachers seeking first contract negotiations
NEW HAVEN — After the Yale administration flouted a second and final deadline to begin contract negotiations, graduate teachers in Local 33–UNITE HERE at Yale University announced Tuesday that they have begun an indefinite fast they are calling the Fast Against Slow.
“I’ve been waiting for Yale to negotiate for four years. That doesn’t seem to matter to them,” said Aaron Greenberg, Chair of Local 33 and one of the eight fasters. “Now Yale tells us that we should wait longer and the process needs to be slower. So we will wait, without eating.”
On February 23rd, Yale graduate teachers in eight departments voted in favor of unionization in secret-ballot elections administered by the National Labor Relations Board, but the Yale administration has refused to begin contract negotiations. At a demonstration held outside the home of Yale President Peter Salovey, over a thousand graduate teachers and allies gathered to support the fasters and call for Yale to meet its responsibility to negotiate.
“There’s an ongoing crisis of sexual harassment on campus that Yale sweeps under the rug,” said Julia Powers, a faster and graduate teacher in Comparative Literature. “When we speak out they tell us to be patient. Then it happens to someone else. Yale tried to assign a sexual predator to oversee my work and decide my future. I’m tired of waiting.” According to a University report, 53.9 percent of women graduate and professional students at Yale have experienced sexual harassment.
The Yale administration has sought to lengthen the legal process, increasing the likelihood that its case could be heard by an NLRB appointed by the Trump administration. The University has announced its intention to continue to contest graduate teachers’ basic status as employees and right to unionize.
“Yale wants you to wait,” said Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Maria Elena Durazo. “Those in power always want the rest of us to wait. Your brave choice to continue the struggle without eating is to be celebrated.”
“I am one of 32 Black men in Yale’s graduate school and Yale wants me to be invisible,” said Charles Decker, another faster and PhD Candidate in Political Science. “Every time I have stood up for racial justice at Yale, administrators act surprised and say they are working on it. Then nothing changes. It has been long enough.”
The fast will continue until the University comes to the negotiating table. In the meantime, union members announced, the Yale administration should expect daily protests by the graduate teachers and their allies.
“I heartily support what you have been trying to do and what you are doing today,” said Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr. to the fasters. Rev. Lawson, a longtime leader of nonviolent movements for justice, was chair of the strategy committee for the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. He told the Local 33 fasters, “You demonstrate the discipline and the perseverance that we must have if we’re going to reverse the forces of spiritual wickedness which want economic deprivation and exploitation of people.”
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