STAND BY ME

One of the less than super features of my six years at the high school formerly known as Akiba Hebrew Academy was the seemingly endless succession of assemblies hosting guest speakers from organizations like the ZOA speaking on topics like the caginess of Arabs and the awesomeness of what we’ve since learned to call “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Then my senior year I organized a human rights conference that included Ian Lustick, a Zionist with some concerns about human rights in Israel, and I got called into the Principal’s office and told that he didn’t like having controversial speakers without counterbalancing speakers there to offer “the other side” (in the end I was able to negotiate a compromise where Lustick would speak alone after an Ahmadinejad-at-Columbia-style introduction from the Headmaster and Lustick and Daniel Pipes would be invited to have a debate at Akiba later on).

A couple months later, the Headmaster announced that everyone in the school would be bussed to an “Israel Solidarity Rally” downtown. After a bunch of kids objected to being forced to participate in a rally defending the Likud government from criticism, Akiba agreed to let kids who wanted to skip the rally and stay at school to watch Exodus and think about what they’d done. A couple months after that, Akiba’s administration announced at my graduation that everyone in the Class of 2002 would receive a copy in the mail at college of Myths and Facts About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (“Myth: Palestinians. Fact: Israelis.”).

All this came to mind when I opened my e-mail and saw an e-mail circulating amongst Akiba Alumni to “Seek neutrality on political issues at Akiba.” What instigated it? Apparently some of my more right-wing friends were appalled that Akiba sent out an e-mail announcing an event hosted by the insufficiently-Likud-friendly New Israel Fund.

Photos from the Yale strike are compiled here.

The Times’ latest analysis is here.

In what some call a clash between blue collars and blue bloods, many of Yale’s workers grew up in New Haven resenting Yale, feeling that it symbolized wealth and arrogance. For its part, Yale has a reputation of being inflexible in negotiations, angering many workers.

Yale officials appear convinced that the university is New Haven’s most generous employer and that its workers should be happy with their lot.

Many Yale workers, seeing few other job opportunities in New Haven, believe that the best way to improve their lot is to remain at Yale and fight to improve wages and benefits. “You combine a union that is not uncomfortable with a very public approach to negotiations and using whatever types of leverage it can find, and a university that’s taken a hard negotiating approach and stuck with it for a long period of time, and it’s a volatile mix,” said Richard Hurd, a labor relations professor at Cornell.

He said Yale traditionally had a hard-line bargaining approach that resembled General Electric’s: make an offer and refuse to budge.

Some Yale administrators and students attribute the university’s labor record to one man: John Wilhelm, a 1967 Yale graduate who is president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, the parent of the two union locals on strike. Mr. Wilhelm, widely viewed as one of labor’s leading strategists, came to prominence within labor by leading the drive to unionize Yale’s clerical workers.

“For 35 years John Wilhelm has organized strikes at Yale,” said Helaine Klasky, Yale’s communications director. “This year is no different. He obviously believes that confrontation rather than cooperation is the best way to settle contract disputes.”

I’d be curious if there’s anyone out there who finds the latter explanation more convincing than the former. My take will be in the YDN tomorrow.

Today was the third meeting between Union and University leadership facilitated by Mayor DeStefano.

Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of our members on strike, we are now meeting with Yale decision makers,” said Local 34 President Laura Smith. “Pensions are a key issue for all of us on strike. It’s time to settle a package that gives us retirement with dignity,” said local 35 President Bob Proto.

It’s about time.

Oh – Akiba Hebrew Academy will open one day late on Monday after a last minute settlement between the union and administrators. Maybe my new place of study could learn something from my old one…