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At rally, Yale graduate student workers say they want to form a union

 Local 33 organizer Abigail Fields (left) holds up a binder full of graduate worker student signatures.
Ali Oshinskie
Connecticut Public Radio
Local 33 organizer Abigail Fields (left) holds up a binder full of graduate worker student signatures.

Yale University graduate student workers gathered at a rally in New Haven Wednesday night to say they want to form a union.

Union organizer and Yale graduate student worker Abigail Fields said it took Local 33, the intended name for the union, more than six months to gather the necessary support.

“Over 1,600 grad workers at Yale have publicly stated that we want a union,” Fields said at the rally, which drew about 500 people.

Rally attendees said their hopes for a contract include better pay to match rising inflation, expanded health benefits, support for child care, and bigger offices.

A Yale spokesperson said the university’s stance is that graduate students are students – and not workers.

“Yale supports open and robust discussion on the topic of graduate student unionization, with respect for everyone’s viewpoint,” the university said in a statement.

Yale has five unions that represent workers including janitors, clerical workers and security guards.

The effort by Yale graduate students comes as the counterparts at other private universities are forming unions.

“We are in the middle of an exciting new wave of graduate worker organizing in this country,” Paul Seltzer, co-president of Local 33 and graduate teacher, said at Wednesday’s rally.

Graduate students at Yale have made similar efforts over the years.

The National Labor Relations Board in 2016 cleared the way for graduate students at private universities to unionize. The Trump administration had proposed a challenge to that provision, but the board dropped it last year.

Copyright 2022 Connecticut Public Radio. To see more, visit Connecticut Public Radio.

Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Ali reports on the Naugatuck River Valley with an emphasis on work, economic development, and opportunity in the Valley. Her work has appeared on NPR, Marketplace, and The Hartford Courant.