AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts Amherst and United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2322 announced today that they have reached an agreement to begin collective bargaining of a contract that would cover the resident assistants and community development assistants in the University''s residence halls.
The resident assistants (RAs) voted to unionize on March 5, 2002, and the state labor relations commission certified the results of the election, but the University had refused to bargain with the union and had asked the labor commission to reconsider their certification.
Under the terms of the agreement reached today, the University and the UAW will begin negotiations this fall. The subjects of negotiation will be the terms and conditions of employment of the RAs and will exclude all academic and student matters.
There are 365 RAs and CDAs in this newest bargaining unit of Local 2322. The RAs'' campaign to organize a union began in February 2001.
Both sides expressed pleasure with the agreement. Susan Pearson, Associate Provost for Faculty Relations and Budget at the University, 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 ecstatic about the agreement. I''ve worked with a lot of past and present 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 reached today, the parties have agreed that this joint release will be their only public statement. Neither will be available for further comment.