Republicans Taunt Hunger-Striking Union Workers With a Barbecue
Every day, Republicans demonstrate how deplorable they are. Earlier this week, a group of graduate students at Yale went on a hunger strike to demand union representation and better benefits from the University. Yale’s College Republicans responded by taunting the hunger strikers with a barbecue.
The underlying dispute between the university and the union involves some fairly novel questions involving how graduate employee unions should be organized. Last August, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recognized that graduate teaching and research assistants may organize and collectively bargain under a federal law protecting unions.
But Republicans don’t believe in worker’s rights and decided to stage a smoke meat feast where the hunger strike was taking place. But the smell of barbecue wasn’t enough to weaken the resolve Friday of eight Yale University graduate student teachers who have not eaten in days.
“I’m not really focused on that,” said Local 33 chairman and city Alder Aaron Greenberg, D-8, who is a graduate student teacher and Ph.D. candidate in political science. “I’m focused on making sure we have lots of water, make sure I’m healthy. We have a check-in with our nurse this afternoon. We are focused on that.”
The students are protesting the university’s unwillingness to negotiate a contract with its recently formed union, Local 33 Unite Here, saying that the school, which is contesting the National Labor Relations Board ruling, is delaying to start the negotiations because they are hoping President Donald Trump will appoint anti-union members to the NLRB.
As Yale acknowledges in a statement, such graduate student unions now exist at several universities, including “Columbia, Harvard, Duke and Cornell.” Yale, however, objects to the manner in which its graduate students wish to organize.
Representatives from the Yale Republicans refused to comment to a reporter from the New Haven Register, which was the first to report this story, before that reporter was removed from the site of the barbecue by campus police.
The university has threatened to remove the students from the plaza, Greenberg said. “They have made it very clear they want to evict us, but we have no intention of leaving until the negotiations begin,” he said.
In the statement, the university says its greatest concern lies with the student’s health. “Yale as an institution is resolutely committed to freedom of speech and expression,” according to the statement. “The university continues to welcome an open, respectful, and robust discussion on the important issue of graduate teaching fellow unionization.”
A discussion won’t cut it, Greenberg said, and until negotiations begin, the students will continue to fast.
“Instead of telling us they want to evict us from this location, they should tell us that they’re willing to sit down and talk,” he said.
“I’m happy to end the fast with President Salovey and members of the administration. I’m happy to break bread with them, but I want to break bread with them over a negotiating table so we can begin the conversation that leads to us getting our contract and addressing the issues that have taken us year after year that led us to call for unionization, issues about secure pay, about equal pay, access to healthcare, access to childcare for parents and for our families. The Yale University administration and President Salovey are choosing to side with Donald Trump instead of us.”