I’m committed to Yale, but are they committed to us?

My name is Joel Furtek, and I work in Athletics as the Boatman for the rowing teams out in Derby, winners of the last three collegiate national championships. Every workday is different, supporting 8 full-time coaches and 145 student-athletes: I maintain outboard engines, repair carbon-fiber racing shells, transport our fleet all across the country, manage our equipment in Workday, give tours to foreign university officials, and support a free program to teach rowing to the children of New Haven and the Valley. It’s a hard job, but it’s a good one, in no small part due to the success that our union has had in pressing Yale to respect and support our members.

I know this work first-hand, because in the late 1980s, as a student at Yale, I worked alongside Local 34 members in the Athletic Department — some of whom are still working here today. I remember the challenges they faced in the early days of the union and the tense negotiations that nearly led to a strike in 1987. I could see then that their commitment to their work, and their confidence in a fair work environment, made my student experience richer. In fact, I am back at Yale because of the commitment of the two Boatmen who held this job then, who served Yale for a combined 75 years. I was proud to return to Yale to continue their mission, and just as proud to join Local 34.

But over the last four years, I have seen that the gains made over the last 30 years are not permanent. In Athletics alone, we have seen reductions in overtime pay and tasks shifted from C&T employees to M&P workers. Alarmingly, two of our members were recently laid off from Yale’s golf course, which had been recognized by Golf Digest as the best college course in the country.

These trends put at risk our faith in Yale as a fair and dependable employer; they take away from the daily tasks we do to further Yale’s mission of world-class research, education, and medical care. Every day, Local 34 workers like you and me interact with students, faculty, alumni, and the general public. Every day, we work behind the scenes to ensure that our programs succeed. And every day, we make Yale a better place. All we ask in return is that Yale offer us a positive work environment with fair wages, good benefits, and job security.

Will you join me in sharing your story? Send a letter here to tell President Salovey, to respect our work, protect our jobs, and ensure that good union jobs grow as Yale grows.

Joel Furtek: Yale College 1990

Athletics, 4 years at Yale