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UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Editorial: Union RAs Are A-Ok

The Mass Media applauds the lengthy and arduous struggle conducted by the Resident Assistants (RAs) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMA) in their attempt to form a union.

The announcement on July 31 that UMA and the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2322 had reached an agreement to begin collective bargaining on a contract for RAs, signaled an historic victory for all undergraduate university employees. The undergraduate union at Amherst would be the first undergraduate union in the country.

There are over 360 undergraduate RAs currently employed at Amherst. The university administration, in attempting to derail union efforts, claimed that theses RAs were not employees. Webster’s Dictionary describes an employee as “a person who works for another in return for financial or other compensation.” RAs at Amherst received compensation ($50 for a 20-hour work week) and they received a tuition waiver of $5,000 (which would constitute other compensation.)

While the specifics of their two year battle can be reviewed on page one of this issue in the article “UMass RA’s First”, needless to say, given the long-standing frictions between this Commonwealth’s institutions of higher learning and its many unions, the fight for recognition has not been an easy one.

Our support for those out at Amherst is not entirely selfless. With the looming prospect of on-campus housing being constructed on this campus, there will be a need for RAs at UMB.

Dave Synott, an RA at UMA was quoted as saying, “Today, undergraduate student workers are taking their rightful place at the table of organized labor.” At some point some of us at UMass Boston may need some of those seats.

If nothing else, the successful attempt to unionize by the RAs will embolden other undergraduate employees organizations to follow a similar path. Undergraduates who are employed at universities have been discounted for too long as mere “students,” and subsequently receive low wages for doing jobs that require skill, ability, and experience.

This is nowhere truer than at UMass Boston.

Undergraduate status should not devalue an individual’s worth as an employee. Unfortunately, the low regard that many universities have for undergraduates is unlikely to change in the near future. Developments in the RAs’ unionization process will be closely and eagerly watched