By Staff Writer James Mellen III
The UMass Dartmouth Residence Assistance have officially started the process of forming a workers union.
The way workers unions are formed is through the gathering of union cards. Say that an employee has agreed to allow a union to represent them in collective bargaining with their employer. Once over thirty-percent of workers have signed these cards, they are submitted to the National Labor Relations Board. This board has legal precedent to hold an election with the workers to make the union legitimate. Alternatively the employer can recognize that the majority of workers have signed with a union and allow the workers to unionize on their own.
On Friday February 11, representatives from the forming worker’s union spoke with representatives from the UmassD Housing Department. The housing department refused to voluntarily recognize the union and hear students voices during through collective bargaining.
The union has began to materialize because of what many RAs feel is unfair treatment from the university. One working condition that many RAs feel is particularly unfair is the censorship of what RAs can and cannot post on social media.
Since the controversy regarding parking after the construction of the new buildings and the Dells, many students have voiced their concerns and feelings to other students through UMassD social media, such as The Black Market. RAs have not been given an outlet to voice their concerns out of fear of losing their job, as UmassD considers them RAs at all times. This is not a general threat either, the RAs that have spoken out on decisions that they feel are questionable have been reprimanded by the University’s housing department.
This has left many RAs feeling as though their opinions and voices as students are not allowed to be heard by other students or by the administration of the University. Our local RAs are not the first in the UMass system to form a union, as Umass Amherst became the first group of unionized Resident Assistants in the country in 2002. The UMassA RAs are represented by United Auto-Workers local 2322 chapter in Amherst along with the university’s graduate employees.
The Torch reached out to a representative from the UMass Amherst workers union, who are currently under contract negotiation to ask about unionizing. The Amherst RA union has supported the cause of the UmassD RA union. They say that the union has been a generally beneficial thing for the student RAs on campus.
The process of unionization for the students of UMass Amherst was met with extreme opposition from their university, which ended with UMass Amherst challenging the NLRB’s decisions to recognize the RAs union.
According the the 2322’s website, they have won many beneficial things for the RAs at Umass Amherst such as just cause for termination, increased compensation, and no new duty hours.
Since UMassD housing has chosen not to voluntarily recognize the RA union despite over fifty-one percent of them supporting the cause, representatives from the union are going to reach out to the NLRB and have them host an election on campus.
If the same RAs that signed the cards vote for a union in the election, then a union will be formed.
Once a union is formed the union will undergo a process called collective bargaining, which is a process where the voices of workers is forced to be heard by employers, as they negotiate what is and is not fair working conditions.