I first noticed this story earlier this week and almost brought it up here before deciding that it really wasn’t all that remarkable. A group of graduate students at Yale went on a hunger strike this week to demand union representation and better benefits from the University. Considering the deal they were already getting it sounded a bit odd, but if you’re willing to starve yourself I guess they must be serious. (Associated Press)
Graduate assistants in eight departments at the Ivy League school voted in February to unionize, and they appeared to be on track to become among the first to do so since the National Labor Relations Board ruled last year that those assisting in teaching and research at private universities have a right to union representation. But Yale is challenging the union strategy of voting by individual departments, as opposed to the graduate school as a whole, and has said the requests by Local 33-UNITE HERE for collective bargaining are premature.
Hundreds of graduate students and their supporters participated in a march Tuesday evening to the home of Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, and demonstrators announced that eight graduate students would begin a fast.
“I’ve been waiting for Yale to negotiate for four years. That doesn’t seem to matter to them,” said Aaron Greenberg, a union chairman who is among the hunger strikers.
These students need to be careful. While hunger strikes have been used in the past by many people seeking to draw attention to their cause and gain some leverage, the effects on the human body can be brutal. Live Science reports that prolonged periods without food can result in severe neurological problems, including cognitive impairment, vision loss and lack of motor skills.
Oh, wait… The Yale students have found a way around these problems. This is a hunger strike where you get to eat if you get too hungry. (Fox News)
As it turns out, the hunger strike might not put anyone’s health in peril. According to a pamphlet posted on Twitter by a former Yale student, the hunger strike is “symbolic” and protesters can leave and get food when they can no longer go on.
So this “hunger strike” is actually a group of people taking up space on the sidewalk when they’re not running out to Burger King for a Whopper. Well played, ladies and gentlemen. But perhaps they won’t have to travel as far for a bite next time. It turns out that the College Republicans decided to set up a tent next to theirs and serve up a barbecue.
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.
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.
Friday, just feet away from the tent erected in Beinecke Plaza on Wall Street, where protesters have stayed for the past three days, the Yale College Republicans were serving up a meal of barbecued beef, baked beans and corn to its members and others in the Yale community.
But while we’re on the subject I’d like to ask about two points from the original story which were what made me curious to begin with. First of all, liberal bastions of higher education are supposed to be all in favor of unions, aren’t they? Organized labor, the Fight for 15, collective bargaining to stand up to the man… that’s pretty much their bread an butter, isn’t it? I guess those lofty principles cease to apply when it’s your own people who want to unionize and demand a better deal.
It’s the “deal” in question which brings us to the second point. These graduate students are, according to the university, receiving a $30,000 annual stipend, get 100% free health care and are getting free tuition. Yes… free tuition. To Yale University. I’ll grant you that $30K isn’t going to make you a one percenter or anything, but it’s still more than a lot of hard working people make. Toss in the value of the tuition and the cost of health care benefits and the total compensation package puts them well above the medium income for Americans. And they’re students.
Exactly how much more of a deal are you really expecting before you’ve even begun your career? Try quitting school and going out in the real world without a graduate degree and landing a job. Let us know how that works out for you, snowflakes.