RPI RA Union sends letter to President Martin A. Schmidt
A band of RAs gathered in front of the Troy Building on February 6 to deliver a letter to President Martin A. Schmidt ’81. “Abuse from students has gone unaddressed by the university leading some RAs to fear for their safety. Students complain that poor communication from the administration makes their jobs more difficult and less safe,” reads their press release.
The goal of this letter is for Schimdt to recognize the RA Union. Spokesperson of the union Adrian Alicea Roman ’23G told The Polytechnic, “We would be able to negotiate with Student Living and Learning or RPI regarding RA working conditions or benefits…hoping to make the position safer, more fair, and just helping RA lives in general and everybody else’s.”
The union gave the letter to the Manager of Officer Operations and Board Relations Jenn Brock, who will give the letter to Schmidt. The RA Union said Schmidt has five business days to respond to the letter. Should the letter be ignored or its request denied, the union would go to the National Labor Relations Board to ask for recognition.
The press release and their letter are in full below.
Troy, N.Y. (Feb. 6, 2023) — Resident Assistants at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the nation's oldest technological research university, are working to form a union in partnership with OPEIU Local 153. A petition signed by more than 75% of RA's is now in the hands of RPI President Martin Schmidt. Students are paid 80–90% less than RA's at similar sized institutions, yet required to work well over 20 hours a week overseeing up to 80 students. Further, students claim RPI policies—such as a policy requiring them to call campus police rather than 911—are putting them and their fellow students in dangerous, life threatening situations.
“RAs are told to specifically and solely call Public Safety (who can take upwards of 8 minutes to even respond across the street) and then the Dean on Duty for ALL Medical emergencies and indirectly scolded for mentioning 911. This game of telephone with the lives of students on this campus is outrageous and we must not stand for it.”
- Dianna Stuzhuk, EMT, RPI Resident Assistant since Summer 2021
Union leaders say that abuse from students has gone unaddressed by the university leading some RAs to fear for their safety. Students complain that poor communication from the administration makes their jobs more difficult and less safe. There is a rally scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2023 at Beman Park in Troy where RAs and student leaders will speak about their treatment and the unionization process.
“To deal with issues like this, we are paid thirty dollars every two weeks, and the students receive no consequences as a result of their actions. RAs deserve basic and assured safety, respect, and support from the administration.”
- Nikolas Pepmeyer, Alumni RPI Resident Assistant
Office & Professional Employees International Union Local 153 supports around 10,000
workers throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut to make the changes they want to see in their workplaces and their communities. Our members are employed in a range of fields, including social services, legal aid, higher education, healthcare, hotels, credit unions, and sports facilities. We are the first union ever to have a union contract for Resident Assistants at a private university in the US.
February 6, 2023
Dear President Schmidt and the Board of Trustees,
We are pleased to inform you that an overwhelming majority of RPI Resident Assistants have joined together to form a union with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153. In conversations spanning the past few months, we have talked about how our responsibilities and lack of fair pay impact our ability to both effectively serve our residents as well as take care of ourselves as students. We have collectively decided that forming a union will empower us to better pursue our shared mission not only for current RAs, but all generations that follow.
We believe that forming a union will promote and ensure transparency, respect, justice, and equity while also increasing staff well-being, retention, and performance. We know that such values are important to the Rensselaer Community and hope that this union will add to the long list of why we are proud to be RAs at RPI. As a union, we will build a stronger, more sustainable organization for all staff and the students we serve and make RPI a better workplace for everyone. We want your support as we move forward in this process.
We ask that you understand our perspective as student workers and leaders and voluntarily recognize our union. We believe that RPI is a place where the administration is capable of being open, receptive, collaborative, and makes the well-being of its staff a top priority. To unionize is to explicitly embrace those values and continue to ensure that everyone’s voice is respected and heard. Voluntarily recognizing a RPI RA union will position RPI as a leader in advocating for RAs who, in addition to pursuing our academic interests, play an integral role in the culture of residential life. It will demonstrate to other groups of RAs in the U.S. that RPI is a strong and resilient school that is prepared to meet students' needs and move forward towards a sustainable future.
We look forward to your recognition of our union, to a robust collective bargaining process, and to working with the RPI administration to better serve our community. After all, cultivating an environment where RPI’s RAs can better care for ourselves and our residents is one small step towards changing the world. Please respond to this petition within five business days to firstname.lastname@example.org and OPEIU Local 153 organizer Scott Williams at email@example.com.
RPI RA Union