Magazine article The Progressive

Class Conflict and the Classroom

Magazine article The Progressive

Class Conflict and the Classroom

Article excerpt

New Haven, Connecticut

An unusual alliance is disrupting education-as-usual at Yale University. Three unions representing almost 5,000 workers - the service and maintenance workers (Local 35), the clerical and technical workers (Local 34), and the Graduate Employee and Student Organization - have formed the Federation of University Employees to do battle with the Yale administration.

The labor disruption began in January, with a two-week grade strike by the graduate-teachers' union when Yale refused to recognize it (see "On the Line," February 1996). Though the strikers went back to work without a contract, Yale has suffered rebuke from the Modern Language Association and the American Association of University Professors for the threats it used to intimidate the strikers, and for its refusal to bargain collectively with the teaching assistants. A pending unfair-labor-practice suit could force Yale to negotiate with the fledgling union.

Meanwhile, during contract negotiations with its clerical and maintenance workers, the university made proposals that would increase subcontracting, add to the number of casual workers, institute a two-tier wage system for new hires, and cut retiree benefits. The university also made it clear that it was prepared to wait out a long strike, running full-page ads in local papers with the headline: Yale University: A Great Place to Study and to Work. Yale also promised to revoke the health benefits of any worker on strike for more than thirty days. …

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