Administration, RA union to bargain
J. Fitzgibbons, Chronicle staff
he tug-of-war between the University and organizers
of a resident assistant union took an unexpected turn last week
as both sides announced plans to begin collective bargaining in
In a joint statement,
campus officials and the United Auto Workers Local 2322 said the
pending talks will focus on the terms and conditions of employment
of RAs and community development assistants. Academic and student
matters will be excluded from the negotiations.
RAs voted to unionize
on March 5 and the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission certified
the results of the election, but the University refused to bargain
with the union and had asked the labor commission to reconsider
its certification. The University's stance prompted a series of
protests by pro-union supporters, including an office sit-in on
April 29 that resulted in 35 arrests.
In response, many faculty
and staff, as well as other campus unions, publicly backed the RAs'
bid to organize and called on University officials to accept the
MLRC's recognition of the union.
decision to bargain with the RAs is a victory for UAW Local 2322,
which already represents graduate employees on campus and graduate
students who teach courses through Continuing Education. The newest
unit of Local 2322 includes 365 RAs and CDAs employed by Housing
In the joint statement,
both sides praised the breakthrough towards negotiations.
Susan Pearson, associate provost for Faculty Relations and Budget,
said, "The University will face a number of challenges in the
coming months, including serious budgetary constraints and the many
difficulties associated with the loss of hundreds of long-term and
valued faculty and staff members who chose to participate in retirement
incentive programs this year. We believe this is a time when all
members of the University community need to pull together to address
these challenges and when all our collective talents and energies
must be devoted to that end. We are pleased with our mutual agreement
to separate academic from employment issues, and we look forward
to a productive bargaining relationship with the RA union."
James A.W. Shaw, president
of UAW Local 2322, said, "This is a historic day for organized
labor and the UAW. Today's agreement shows that unions are appropriate
for all workers, including undergraduate student workers. Unions
bring democracy into the workplace, and democracy is always the
right solution. We are looking forward to sitting down and bargaining
a contract with the University. We are excited at this opportunity
to meaningfully address the concerns of the RAs and CDAs. The UAW
continues to lead the way in organizing academic employees nationally."
Dave Synnott, who has
worked as an RA for three years, said, "Today, undergraduate
student workers are taking their rightful place at the table of
organized labor. We are forever grateful for the support of our
fellow union sisters and brothers, community members, and elected
public servants. We look forward to negotiating an agreement with
the University that provides fair treatment, a living wage and a
voice at work for all of us."
"I'm very happy
and relieved," said Cristal Cruz, an RA who helped organize
the union. "We still have a lot of work to do now. We need
to form a bargaining committee and put together our proposals, but
we are excited at this historic opportunity."
Tim Scott, an organizer
for UAW Local 2322, said "I'm ec-static about the agreement.
I've worked with a lot of past and pre-sent RAs who've worked very
hard to get to this point. They have always believed that a union
would serve to make a job they are dedicated to even better."
Ariana Sicairos, an
RA and member of the union, said "This is what we've all worked
on for the past two years. Now that we have their commitment to
working together with the RA union, we feel we can negotiate a contract
that serves the best interests of RAs across the campus."
As part of the agreement,
the administration and RA union representatives pledged to refrain
from further public comments about the deal.