Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
Ico print Print | Ico email Email | Facebook | | RSS

John Wilhelm ’67: A Yale labor leader steps down from the national stage.

John Wilhelm ’67 spent more than three decades wrestling with his alma mater—in negotiating rooms, on picket lines, and even on The Phil Donahue Show, where he faced off with then-president A. Bartlett Giamatti ’60, ’64PhD, during a 1984 strike.

Now the longtime labor leader is stepping down as president of UNITE HERE, the national parent union of Yale’s locals 34 & 35.

Wilhelm went to work for Local 35, the service & maintenance workers’ union, in 1969—around the time that unions began trying, unsuccessfully, to organize Yale’s clerical & technical employees. Finally, with Wilhelm as chief organizer, the clerical & technical workers voted Local 34 into existence in 1983. Twenty-nine years and numerous strikes later, Local 34 is one of New Haven’s biggest and strongest unions.

Meanwhile, Wilhelm became a national leader of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE), helping to engineer its unhappy marriage with a textile workers’ union known as UNITE. UNITE HERE remains powerful in Las Vegas, where it represents casino workers. And Wilhelm continued going face-to-face with Yale presidents during their contract negotiations until a few years ago—when, president Rick Levin ’74PhD told the Yale Alumni Magazine,“We are so glad that we don’t have to do that again.”


The comment period has expired.