At noon on April 30, 1971, some Yale students began busing their own trays. Others flipped food-filled plates and tables onto the floor. Almost 100 students broke chairs and other furniture.Commons, the main dining hall on campus, became a “slippery, sloshing pigpen,” according to the Yale Daily News. Soon, nearly 300 students flooded Commons, throwing metal trays across the hall while policemen and dining managers watched grimly nearby. “Support the Yale workers,” they chanted, doing all they could to halt Commons’s services. That day, over 1,000 service and maintenance employees at Yale, part of Local 35 of the Federation of University Employees, went on strike. Their leader, Vincent Sirabella, was determined to avoid a repeat of three years earlier, when Yale crushed the union’s walkout in less than a week. New on the job, Sirabella faced his opportunity to demonstrate his concern, toughness, and tactical acumen to Yale and to the workers he represented. Failure would almost certainly entail a spell of pitiful wages and poor working conditions for his workers, as well as ejection from his job. It was up to him to rally his workers against the monolithic, aggressive, superrich institution that was Yale.
Noonan, Raymond L. III, "Insurgent Labor Activists at Yale, 1968-1971" (2015). MSSA Kaplan Prize for Use of MSSA Collections. 5.
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