For immediate release
April 14, 2009
Evan Cobb, firstname.lastname@example.org
New Haven, Conn.–Yale University UNITE HERE Locals 34 and 35, the two major unions representing Yale employees, have agreed on new three-year contracts more than nine months before the expiration of their current contracts. The new agreements will take effect January 2010 and cover 3,400 clerical and technical employees in Local 34 and more than 1,200 service and maintenance employees in Local 35.
"These agreements signal a turning point in the history of labor relations at Yale", said President Richard C. Levin. "With these early and peacefully negotiated contracts, Yale and its unions have proven that our future together does not have to repeat our troubled past."
"With these new agreements, the unions at Yale will grow as the University does," said Laura Smith, President of Local 34. "We are pleased to have reached agreements that meet our members’ needs and provide stability for the New Haven region’s economy."
"The key decision makers on both sides decided to do the hard work together and come to an agreement," said Bob Proto, President of Local 35. "We are confident that the trust we have built through this process is the foundation for a greatly improved, new relationship between the unions and Yale."
The new contracts replace agreements reached in September 2003 after twenty months of negotiations and two strikes. At that time, the University and its unions committed to putting labor relations at Yale on a more productive path. The 2003 contracts created a Labor-Management Policy Board, comprised of University officers and top union leaders, with responsibility for a series of "Best Practice" initiatives and improved day-to-day labor relations.
In the intervening years, trust has been restored, complex labor problems solved, and a strong foundation set for a more collaborative relationship. "Both sides have worked long and hard to change our labor relations habits," Levin said. "The entire Yale community applauds the leadership of the Labor-Management Policy Board in healing the divisions of the past and putting us on a more productive course." Levin praised the contributions of union leaders Bob Proto, Laura Smith, and Cathy Meyerson, who – along with University Vice Presidents Bruce Alexander, Shauna King, and Mike Peel – created the strong spirit of collaboration that made the new agreements possible.
The new contracts address the major economic issues of wages and fringe benefits, but also union growth and workplace productivity.
Under the agreements, Local 35 employees will receive a 2% increase in January 2010 and 3.25% increases in January 2011 and 2012. Local 34 employees will forego a January 2010 increase, in return for greater assurances on job security, but they will receive structural increases of 2% in January 2011 and 2012. The new agreements will expire January 14, 2013.
Represented employees and their families will continue to have the option of fully paid health coverage under Yale’s internal health management organization, the Yale Health Plan. But to control costs, newly hired employees will be automatically enrolled in the Yale Health Plan during their first three years of employment. Only after this initial period will employees have the option of choosing more expensive health coverage offered by an external insurer. The increased utilization of the Yale Health Plan will save the University money, while the new Yale Health Plan facility, which will open in mid-2010 should enable even more responsive patient care.
To respond to the needs of the University’s research and medical operations, Local 34 has agreed to rationalize paid time off for newly hired employees and to explore other areas for operational improvements.
Union growth concerns were also addressed. For Local 35, the jurisdiction of the union has been expanded to include the University’s new West Campus in West Haven and Orange, Connecticut. For Local 34, the University has agreed to expand the criteria for the highest clerical and technical labor grade, to reexamine potentially misclassified positions, to create a pool of bargaining unit positions to cover the need for temporary and short-term workers, and to take a series of additional steps to minimize the impact of layoffs on current Local 34 employees.
And, although pension benefits for current retirees are not subject to the collective bargaining process, the University committed to addressing mutual concerns about the economic needs of retirees with the smallest pensions.
To ensure that the labor relations progress of recent years continues, both sides reaffirmed the role and importance of the Labor-Management Policy Board and the "Best Practice" initiatives that are being jointly pursued. The new contracts also call for negotiations to begin on successor agreements a minimum of 12 months prior to their expiration, in hopes of once again achieving early and peaceful settlements.