Stories from those who experienced Local 33 harassment
There is no shortage of complaints about Local 33's intimidation tactics and harassment that are 100% counter to a safe, educational environment and to students' mental health - the very thing they claim Yale is preventing.
Share your story anonymously here.
As a member of one of the departments that recently voted to unionize, I have been appalled by the actions of the Local 33 leadership in my department. “Elections” have lacked transparency and have been conducted by the very people standing in the elections as candidates, who have felt free to alter the rules that they themselves created after learning the results of the election. They have created an environment within a once very collegial department where many of my colleagues are afraid to voice their opinions due to social sanctioning of all who disagree with the union leadership. In talking to other students, it has become clear that the union leadership lies to us without hesitation, telling each person something different in accordance with what they think that person wants to hear. While I do feel that I was harassed prior to the union vote, being pressured to do things with which I expressed much discomfort, my concerns have multiplied since the vote. It seems that a group of students with their own personal ideological and political projects have managed to claim authority over our department through un-democratic means, and they have no intention of ever giving up this power. While many of us want to replace the current leadership with a group of students who are willing to (1) listen to the concerns of those they claim to represent, (2) hold fair elections, and (3) maintain at least a minimal level of transparency, we have no clear way forward.
I cannot speak to personal harassment so much as discomfort with organizing practices; I organized at a fairly high level for about 6 months, or 2 campaigns. I noticed a few things that caused me to quit (and then subsequently receive 10 phone calls within the space of a day from a variety of different people, also organizers). One: the imitation of specific people and airing of their personal issues for all present to dissect and find the most accessible weak point (eg history of depression, title IX eligible things etc). Two: There is no democratic mechanism or self policing in the organization. What Jeffery and Anita say, goes, and you take on hours of "conversations" if you voice any dissent. Three: Gaslighting, so much gaslighting. "If you care about xyz issue you should organize. You're just not brave enough to house call this person/call this person/show up at their class. If you critique us you are the enemy." Not a great look for a group purportedly for grad students by grad students. Four: total lack of understanding that people contribute differently and at different levels. Either you start organizing with progressively more commitment and eventual leave taken, or you're not really committed to the group. This contributes to depression and burnout on the part of organizers (most of whom are actually great people, just improperly trained and or pushed to do far more than what they're comfortable with) and the GESO machine keeps turning. As an organizer I did my best to not do most of the things asked of me and instead did normal, sane methods of communication like departmental emails or group meetings where possible, but the pressure was too much. I believe in a union, but GESO is not a union. It's a corporate pyramid scheme on behalf of UNITE HERE (the actual evil) to accrue more members.
This is a little different -- but GESO puts the faculty in a terrible position. Faculty who favor unionization are loud and self-righteous, just like GESO. But those who oppose, or even have reservations, must keep their mouths shut. We have to keep our mouths shut even when GESO lies about stuff we know a lot about (like the financial packages given to grad students). It's very disturbing in a university to have a situation where the faculty can only speak if they agree with a particular party line. The penalty here is not harassment, it's the threat of a trip to Hartford to be accused of anti-union activity. And since we all know how GESO operates, we know that simple statements of moderate views are enough to generate that accusation. GESO tolerates no opposition.
There have been many instances of abuse by Local 33 that I could discuss, but the most egregious was the time they were discovered in the back experiment rooms of our lab. These rooms are a protected area in our lab; they contain expensive equipment (computers, cameras and other recording hardware, experimental apparatus, etc), confidential participant information (including identifying information), and are an active research site. We have a strict protocol regarding use of the experiment rooms to maintain the confidentiality and integrity of our research and fulfill the standards of the Institutional Review Board (IRB); only researchers and participants are permitted to use the rooms, and only at scheduled intervals. Finding the members of Local 33 in our back rooms actually put several on-going experiments at risk and could have constituted a breach in confidentiality, which would be classified as an "Adverse Event & Unanticipated Problem Involving Risks to Subjects or Others" (UPIRSOs) which requires mandatory reporting to the IRB and can result in suspension of a research project, or even expulsion of the researcher. Additionally, due to the subtle manipulations employed by psychology, even the presence of an unregulated figure can alter an experimental outcome. Although we had previously warned the organizers of Local 33 that entering our lab space uninvited was disruptive to our research, they continued to harass us in our lab, in the corridors, and in our offices. The disregard of the members of Local 33 for our concerns and their unwillingness to desist has caused some of my peers to reorganize their experiment structure and build in additional participant protection measures. In sum, the presence of Local 33 has negatively impacted all of the research done in our lab and compromised the integrity of the science we are producing.
Several weeks into my first semester I was leaving class, walking out of the building. I was approached by a person I did not know who asked "Hi, are you ___?" using my name correctly. He had used the department website to memorize our identities before meeting us before launching into a sell of GESO. It was highly off-putting.
GESO people are definitely starting to make me feel uncomfortable. I ended up signing their slip, because they really wouldn't take no for an answer. I was sat down with a classmate while this happened (someone pro union) and didn't feel like I could use the necessary level of assertiveness for them to back off without appearing rude to my classmate.
It didn't stop there though. They then continued to pressure me into getting my photo taken with a local 34/local 35 member. I said that I wasn't sure if I was comfortable with that, and that I would think about it. They approach me again at the library, while I'm obviously studying with my headphones in (they have done this about 4 times total), and ask if I'm willing to talk about getting my photo taken with a local 34/35 member. I say that I'm busy and that I will talk to them after class the next day, which was yesterday. So I talk to them yesterday, and at this stage I was fed up and didn't really care if I came across as rude. I said that I didn't want to do the photograph, as I didn't feel that I knew enough about the GESO and therefore didn't feel comfortable putting my face on something like that. She says that she wants to talk to me and try to convince me. I tell her that I don't really have the time, and I've made my final decision, and that she can either respect that or not. She gives me this speech about how she has put a lot on the line for this, and that she took time off for it, and that she thinks they have a really good chance of winning etc. I was probably quite rude around this point, and walked off, but it felt like the only way to escape the situation.
I am bothered by GESO recruiters coming into my lab space looking for students to talk to. It is not only a disruption to my work; it is also a safety hazard. The Office of Environmental Health and Safety encourages us to question unauthorized visitors, and escort them out of the lab. It is deeply annoying to have to repeatedly ask the same two recruiters to leave.
A GESO advocate came to my lab to sell me on the union and directly stepped into the lab space, where visitors are not permitted. It took roughly five very direct commands to leave over the course of several minutes to get him to leave.
GESO/local 33 has repeatedly come into my office without my permission during the day to persuade me to join their "union". After repeatedly saying no and telling them they are not welcomed, they still kept coming back. This caused disturbance to my office mates' and my personal work. I told them multiple times that I don't want anything to do with GESO any more, and it's time that they take it seriously and not infringe upon others' work time and work space.
I was pro-union and interested in helping out with organizing efforts early in my first year at Yale. I went to a couple of "new/interested organizers" meetings with GESO, but soon realized that I did not have the time for the kind of commitment they were asking for. I was also uncomfortable with the tactics they had outlined for organizers to use during "talks" with curious or hostile potential members. The idea of manipulating my personal relationships to convince a friend to sign a card was uncomfortable for me. The organizer who at the time supervised the organizing in my department (Josh Stanley) continued to insist on time commitments and constantly asked me if I had "a few minutes to talk about things". "A few minutes" never meant "a few minutes". He would show up in areas where I studied to ask if I had time to talk, even when I was clearly busy.
Josh continued to insist that I had more time than I was saying, and essentially said that I should sacrifice the precious few hours I used to go to the gym and call home to GESO. One time in particular, Josh had asked if I would help canvas on a Saturday. I said that I could not, as I had an assignment due on Monday and would be buried in coursework and reading all weekend. Instead of taking me at my word, he and another GESO rep showed up at my door on Saturday to see if I really didn't have time to join them. They wouldn't take no for an answer, even though I was in my PJ's (not expecting guests), so I had to close the door in their faces. Josh continued to pester me after that until one time he asked me to talk at the exact wrong moment, and I got snappy and borderline mean in response. That seemed to finally get the message across.
Everything I've heard from friends who have organized within GESO only confirms that what I have experienced is endemic to the organization, and even a mild version of what others have experienced. I am disappointed, as I remain pro-union, but cannot in good conscience vote for this particular organization or any organization associated with Unite Here.
The number of times myself and friends (allies and LGBTQ identified) have been told that our indifference towards GESO makes us somehow ‘less than’, ‘self-hating’, ‘misogynistic', or not ‘really in the fight for equality’ is frighteningly high. The notion that having any concerns about GESO makes one complicit in sexism, racism, and against gender equity, has been intimated to me and others often. This suggests to me that the leadership of this organization sees these issues not with the sensitivity and human care they deserve, but as tools of political utility. At its best I could interpret it as an outpouring of well-meaning zeal that accidentally crosses a line; at worst it could be seen a disservice to actual action on things we’re collectively interested in. I would note that over 6 years on campus as a gay man, the only times my queerness and safety in an LGBTQ identity have been challenged is in conversation with GESO members.
I have found the GESO people to be pretty annoying and invasive. They wait right outside the doorway of our macro class and pounce on us as we walk out the door, inserting themselves into our conversations. On many occasions I see that they respond to firm but polite rejection with "Well can we just talk about why you're not interested in ["joining the union" or "getting your photo taken with the union" or, ironically, "setting up a meeting to talk about the union"]?"
I googled a definition of harassment:
"the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands."
The behavior of the GESO recruiters that I have observed meets this definition. I've briefly thought about some reasonable and concrete rules they could be asked to comply with to improve the situation, and I came up with the following:
1) They cannot wait inside academic departments when classes let out.
2) If a student clearly states that he/she does want to talk with the recruiter, the recruiter must walk away immediately since further questioning by constitutes harassment.
Local 33 invited themselves into our biolevel hazard 2 lab and accosted me and my lab mates during an assay! You are not allowed in there and you are not allowed to disrupt our work. So unbelievably stupid.
Numerous people in the chemistry department have been repeatedly harassed by GESO. They purposely would corner me into talking to them even though I have said No to talking to them. They would even use other people I was friends with in the department to try to convince me even after these previous experiences. I would really appreciate not seeing them around my lab anymore. Thank you for what you are doing.
A local 33 canvasser for an aldermanic election stood outside my friend's door and yelled "help!" My friend rushed outside, worried that someone was hurt. Instead, they just found themselves roped into an unwanted pitch.
It should be obvious that local 33 will bring these shameless tactics from the campaign season to their union governance.
By the way, this event was documented in the YDN
A leader of GESO told several acquaintances of student 'A' that 'A' was going for the rally and that they should join him too. However, 'A' clearly stated that he 'would think about it' and did not actually agree to go to the rally. Needless to say, 'A' was upset by the incident and did not attend the rally.
Just like other testimonials on this site, I too feel taken advantage of and was pressured by GESO advocates to act in ways I was not comfortable with. GESO organizers in departments close to mine (Political Science, namely) have contacted me relentlessly even when I've specifically said I have no interest in participating. The phone calls and in-person contact got to the point where I allowed a GESO member to take my photo, even though I felt highly uncomfortable supporting their cause for two main reason: First, I did not feel I had a full understanding of what the union benefits and potential drawbacks would be. Whenever I asked a GESO member of the specifics on how the union would help grad students I was met with vague answers, and I also wanted to know potential negative drawbacks, which they were not upfront about. The other reason for not wanting to support GESO was the constant harassment over email, telephone, and in person. Just like others, GESO members came to our lab, which is Biosafety Level II lab, meaning no outside personnel. Along with others in my department, I did not feel "safe" congregating in public areas in departmental building. It go worse when GESO advocates would come to our offices and labs! Repeatedly! The sum of my experience with GESO was extremely off-putting, to the point where I do not want to interact with their leaders, even if I do believe in the cause of unionizing.
When I was a first year grad student, I was hanging out with some Yale seniors (undergrads) on old campus. GESO representatives approached us to sign their petition. This was back when they were trying to demonstrate that they had the support of about 2/3 of the graduate student population. My friends objected that they were undergraduate students and they preferred not get involved with something they were unfamiliar with. The GESO reps insisted that they signed and accused them of being "spoiled, entitled and selfish people" if they didn't. They kept on harassing us saying that people like us were the reason why Yale has such a bad reputation of being full of elitist and conceited a**holes. We had to physically leave our spot on old campus to get rid of them; they tried to follow us, so we had to enter one of the undergrad dorms they don't have access to.
I am an undergraduate who worked on a New Haven political campaign; GESO/Unite Here organizers worked on the opposing campaign. On more than one occasion, GESO and Unite Here organizers harassed not just the undergraduates but the high school students from New Haven who worked on our campaign.
One prominent GESO organizer (who I will not name but they are a very visible leader) got into a shouting match with a 15-year-old on election day. It was disgusting behavior to say the least.
The guy who lurks around the engineering buildings (who has now taken 2-3 years off his PhD to organize for GESO) kept asking to talk - and he brought a friend of mine. So, I finally sat down - and respectfully listened to them for an hour. After that, I told them I disagree with them, and I will vote against GESO anytime I had the opportunity. I had already given them an hour of my time, respectfully! The next day, the guy was there with someone else, who he said was from the sciences - inside a locked area! I was running time sensitive experiments, and even after making it clear that I was not interested, they kept trying to talk to me. I had to literally yell for them to finally leave me alone. Just because they do not have anything to do doesn't mean I can leave my experiments to fail.
GESO has been negatively affecting my life since my first year here. Ever since I decided not to sign a card with them (my reasoning was, why on earth should I disclose my SSN to an organization I barely know?), I have been essentially ostracized from my department. I have been accused of being a conservative (I'm not, but when did that become a dirty word?), of working against the best interests of graduate students, of being a capitalist (again, why is that an insult?) Based on how the leadership of GESO currently treats fellow graduate students, I'm genuinely frightened at the prospect of such an organization purporting to represent my best interests.
I told a GESO person I didn't want to attend a rally because police make me anxious. They said they were "sorry" that this was "impeding" my ability to participate in events like this, implying that I should just magically overcome my anxiety so I can go to GESO events.
An organizer showed up at my apartment door at 10.30am on a Sunday morning with my neighbor (a Yale worker and union member) who had granted the organizer access to our secure apartment building. They were harassing me to sign a petition after I had declined to so a number of times. At a different point, an organizer carried on harassing me by physically preventing me from getting to my parked car even after I told him again and again that I didn't want to speak to him at that time and needed to leave.
I started out as a supporter of GESO when I arrived at Yale. But I quickly realized that the union leadership is not interested in hearing members' views or ideas. I wasn't comfortable having repeated "conversations" with my new PhD colleagues but experienced unremitting pressure to do so. Sadly, the way the union organizes is through isolating individuals, harassment, pressure, and groupthink.
At a meeting with my GESO rep, they had us write down the names of graduate students in my department who would definitely not support the union, those who might, and those who definitely would. I felt very uncomfortable doing this.
I told a GESO person I could not meet with them within the next week as I was extremely busy. They took this to mean that I could meet in the evenings. I said I wasn't. They took this to mean I would prefer a phone meeting. I said I would not. They continuously ignored my saying I did not want to meet.
I told a GESO person that they could meet with me for no more than 10 minutes because I was very busy. When they came by, they had brought a second GESO person and they stayed and talked with me for almost 30 minutes, despite my attempts to get them to leave.
I've been approached by GESO members many times over the years. The initial encounters seemed benign enough, as representatives of GESO explained what its cause is and how we as graduate students can improve the community as a whole. My interest was piqued so I attended a couple of the organizer meetings and wanted to learn more about GESO. However, as time wore on, I noticed that the practices of GESO reps became more aggressive and more hostile, especially as I saw the time commitment starting to grow. I became more hesitant to support GESO and asked kindly to step out to the sidelines for a bit, especially in a particularly busy time at work. Unfortunately GESO did not let me walk away that easily, and proceeded to show up at the most inconvenient times in my office and lab, always asking to meet up to discuss when I had made it clear I didn't want to talk. They even resorted to tracking down my address and knocking on my doorbell at home one Sunday afternoon, which took me completely by surprise. I do not want people to disturb me when I'm working, but even more so when I'm having my private time off at home. GESO, please look over your organizing tactics, as I felt harassed and put down whenever I tried to speak up; hence I resort to using this form here to address my concerns in hope that other students may empathize with my experiences.