Last Wednesday, the members of UNITE HERE! Local 35 and Local 34 unanimously ratified four-year contracts with Yale University. The contracts provide opportunities for job advancement, quality, affordable healthcare, and substantial wage increases for approximately 1200 service and maintenance employees in Local 35, and 3500 clerical and technical employees in Local 34.
The contracts ensure a continuation of a high standard of wages and benefits that the Locals have secured for decades. Between Local 34 and Local 35, members will see an average wage increase of 15%-20% over the life of the contract. Both Locals will continue to enjoy free premiums at the award-winning on-campus health services, as well as affordable, high-quality alternatives for healthcare off-campus. In addition to these benefits, Local 34 created historic structural solutions to long-standing glass ceilings by creating joint University-Union oversight of internal hiring and promotions. Local 35 won advancement tracks for several job classifications, and "no-layoff" language for the life of the contract.
Remarkably, the contracts will also extend these high standards to more people in New Haven. The contract creates a joint University-Union Jobs Pipeline Program to help create employment opportunities for the city’s 10,000 unemployed and underemployed residents. As part of this program, Yale has agreed to invest in training opportunities for city residents and to prioritize local hiring. Local 35’s new contract creates a number of new positions in both skilled trades and entry-level work, and Local 34 won language that would reduce the University’s reliance on casual work by converting temporary positions into full-time Union jobs available to Local 34 members and New Haven Jobs Pipeline Program graduates.
UNITE HERE at Yale members won these contracts after nearly a year of creative organizing. The campaigns began last June with community-based organizing to help elect a worker-friendly Board of Aldermen in New Haven city government during the 2011 elections. On the heels of that victory, rank and file members of both Locals formed large organizing committees that carried out rapid-fire actions both inside and outside the workplace. Close to 3,000 members completed contract surveys in December. Throughout the winter and spring, 800 members sat down with their supervisors to discuss contract issues, and more than 1,500 participated in negotiations caucuses. In April, 2,000 joined a Union-community march through downtown New Haven. And finally, over 4,000 members signed a petition for great contracts in just ten days in June. These efforts made the contract campaign one of the most participatory and democratic negotiations in recent memory, and produced contracts that will continue to move working people in southern Connecticut forward together.
The settlements come six months before the expiration of the existing Local 34 and Local 35 contracts. After 40 years of strikes and discord, the Yale administration, led by President Richard Levin, and our Locals have worked hard together to make negotiations a more constructive process. That effort is progressing: this is the second consecutive round of bargaining at Yale that has resulted in early settlements that both our members and the University feel good about. Both of these new contracts were ratified unanimously by the members.