RA union leads protest on academic quad, calls for university recognition

Resident assistants rally outside Ballou Hall on Nov. 14. Aaron Gruen / The Tufts Daily
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A group of Tufts resident assistants who have collectively organized to form a union — citing no wages, limited benefits and ambiguous contracts among other factors — held a protest on the academic quad on Nov. 14, calling for the university to voluntarily recognize their union. Students gathered outside Packard Hall and then marched to Ballou, where they delivered a petition with 1,000 signatures to university administrators.

“The goal of this is that it leaves an opportunity for there to be a little bit of discussion [between organizers and the administration] because right now, we’re just not getting any,” Josh Cohen, a junior RA who is involved in the unionization organizing, said. 

Dozens of RAs and student supporters attended the rally to show support for the union’s efforts. 

“There’s really broad support, which is very exciting because often it feels like we’re out on our own,” Cohen said.

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Ameya Menta, another junior RA, agreed with Cohen. 

“A lot of RAs’ friends see how much work they do and how much they are on call for, so it’s really nice to see … communities coming together and supporting us,” she said.

Although he is not an RA, sophomore Owen Thomas joined the rally to show support. 

“I think that Tufts University certainly has the ability to provide fair compensation and working conditions for the RAs, and so the fact that they’re not providing that, I think, is not fair,” Thomas said. “I’m here to just support the RAs and make sure they get the fair compensation that they deserve.”

Several RAs delivered speeches outside Packard Hall, announcing that over 1,000 people have signed the petition that was released last week and over 85% of Tufts RAs have signed union authorization cards.

David Whittingham, a junior RA, said in his speech that “voluntary recognition is the only way for Tufts to show that it truly cares about its student workers.” 

“Tufts could decide whether it wants to make clear its contempt for its student workers by fighting [unionization], or whether it wants to embrace the future and set a bold new example for how universities can and should treat their student workers,” Whittingham said.

After rallying the crowd, RAs and supporters marched to Ballou Hall to deliver their petition to administrators.

RAs delivered a letter declaring their intent to form a union on Nov. 9, and they have asked the Tufts administration to voluntarily recognize their union by Nov. 16. If the university does not choose to recognize the union, the organizers will seek an election through the National Labor Relations Board to establish the union.

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