Yale protesters block traffic in New Haven

Yale protesters blocking the intersection of Chapel Street and College Street in downtown New Haven (WTNH / George Roelofsen)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– Protesters took to the streets of New Haven, blocking intersections and causing traffic delays Thursday morning, all in support of graduate student-teachers who are fighting to join a union at Yale.

Yale graduate students blocked three busy intersections near campus. These students also teach classes. They voted to join a union in February and say Yale has not sat down to negotiate a contract. They also say they need a union contract to help them address sexual harassment on campus.

“54% of women in the graduate and professional school reported being sexually harassed,” said graduate teacher Lena Eckert-Erdheim. “This is a problem that the university has known about for years. They always say they’re going to work on it.”

Close to 20 graduate teachers sat down in the intersections, while designated “marshals” stood around them with orange ribbons. That went on for about 45 minutes.

“Police asked them to get up and they did, and they asked them to go away and they no we want to get tickets, and they were given summonses for disorderly conduct,” said New Haven Police Department spokesman Officer David Hartman.

Three protesters refused to leave and had to be dragged away. They will face charges of interfering with a police officer. These are some of the same grad students who have been on a hunger strike for the past two weeks.

Related: Yale grad teachers still on hunger strike over union negotiations

“You know protesting, to a degree is their right,” said officer Hartman. “It’s also everyone else’s right to move around. People have a right to get to work, to get to the hospitals.”

Which was certainly tough Thursday morning with all the road closures. Everlena Allen was trying to visit her mother in St. Raphael’s Hospital, and she said the protests delayed her by an hour.

“People got jobs to go to, kids are going to have to go to school late, and I’m trying to get up to see my mother and it’s a shame they took this time in the morning to do this,” Allen said.

Yale says it is not negotiating because the union election was not done properly. Yale says Local 33 only held elections in 8 of 56 departments, so in reality only 9 percent of grad students voted to unionize. The University says labor organizing is too important to be left to just a tiny fraction of the group.