Resident assistants at Tufts go on strike as freshman class arrives on campus for move-in day

MEDFORD, Mass — Resident assistants at Tufts University went on strike Tuesday, just as the freshman class arrived on campus to move in their belongings for the new school year.

OPEIU Local 153, the union that represents the resident assistants, voted Friday in favor of authorizing a strike after management refused to meet their demand of providing an economic counterproposal. The union says they have been bargaining with Tufts since February about compensation with very little progress.

The resident assistants are asking for a stipend and the university is not cooperating, according to the union.

“It is a shame that the administration’s intransigence has brought us to a point of choosing between fair treatment and our commitment to our residents,” ULTRA RA and Bargaining Committee member David Whittingham said. “I sincerely hope that Tufts will return to the table with a reasonable compromise so that everyone can avoid the disruption that this strike will cause, but after half a year of bargaining in which the university has refused to offer any wages to among its most vital student workers, we’ve been left with virtually no other choice.”

The union has also set up a community petition.

Kalimah Redd Knight, the senior deputy director of Media Relations at Tufts University, released the following statement:

“We are aware that our Resident Assistants (RAs) have shared their intention to strike on Tuesday. Tufts University is committed to continuing to bargain in good faith and hopes the RAs will return to the table and work with us to reach their first contract. The University has been actively engaged in negotiating its first contract with the union and responding directly to specific workplace concerns. However, first-time contracts often take up to a year to negotiate. The University has made a number of proposals and offered dates to continue to bargain. Up until this week’s strike authorization vote, the University had been awaiting the union’s response to its substantive room and board proposals and suggested bargaining dates sent in July. Having received a response on Thursday (8/24/23), the University agreed to meet with the union yesterday to discuss their concerns in the interest of continuing to work toward a first contract. Yesterday evening, the RA’s shared their intention to strike this Tuesday on social media.

In all our collective bargaining relationships, our goal is to support our mission and to follow a set of principles, including providing quality learning and research opportunities; ensuring a safe and respectful work environment; individual and institutional accountability; efficiency; and flexibility. We also seek to achieve equity among various groups of similarly situated employees.

As we have gone through the bargaining process, we have benchmarked what our peer institutions offer Resident Assistants. We believe that a room and board plan both aligns with our values as an institution and is in line with best practices and industry standards across higher education.

Although we appreciate the valuable role our RAs have traditionally played, we have made robust contingency plans to fully support our students in the event of a strike and our staff are well-prepared to step in and help.

The University will continue to coordinate with the union on next steps to reach an equitable agreement.”

Resident assistants at Tufts handle a lot of the on-site issues like helping students who get locked out of their rooms or writing up maintenance issues.

The strike commenced at 7:30 a.m., 30 minutes before freshman students started arriving on campus.

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