AFL-CIO president, union workers arrested at rally for Yale strikers

By Laura Walsh
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Saturday, September 13, 2003

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — AFL-CIO President John Sweeney was arrested with at least 100 demonstrators Saturday for blocking traffic as they marched through city streets in support of two striking Yale University unions.

Sweeney and hundreds of demonstrators had planned to be arrested during the rally and march, which drew a crowd that police estimated at more than 10,000. The march jammed downtown traffic for blocks and drew lengthy honks from supporters and aggravated drivers alike.

Sweeney's hands were bound with plastic ties as he boarded a bus and yelled "Anything for the workers!"

Meg Riccio, a Yale dining hall worker who was among those arrested, said she didn't mind being taken to a police station.

"It's worth getting a criminal record because I'm working for a criminal," she said.

Thousands of members of Northeast unions converged on New Haven for the demonstration in support of two unions representing about 4,000 clerical, technical and maintenance workers at Yale. The unions went on strike three weeks ago.

"This is a fight against a very wealthy institution," Sweeney said. "Unions across the country are coming to lend their support. They are coming to bring their attention to the struggle."

Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the demonstration was irrelevant to contract negotiations, likening it to a union recruitment drive.

"Yale is just serving as a good backdrop," Conroy said.

Leaders of Locals 34 and 35 have said some progress has been made since the strike began, but they and Yale remain far apart on pension and other issues.

Yale has offered an eight-year contract with pay raises of 3 percent to 5 percent, pension benefit increases and signing bonuses. The university has repeatedly said that more unionized workers are reporting to work than walking the picket lines.

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Associated Press writer Matt Apuzzo in New Haven contributed to this report.