TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — After a battle to unionize, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) resident assistants (RAs) won their union vote 55 to nine. The RPI RA Union will represent the interests of RAs and will be affiliated with the Office and Professional Employees International Union.
The RPI RA Union explains they previously sought voluntary recognition from the university but
were denied. Between then and now the RPI administration has discouraged unionizing in a
number of ways; through letters, meetings, etc. They filed anti-labor charges against the
university administration for violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Vice President Student Life Peter Konwerski comments, “We respect the decision of our resident assistants, and we look forward to moving ahead to address issues that support the RA experience and advance the experience of all our student residents.”
The RPI RA Union expresses its appreciation for support during the unionization process. One of the RA Union organizing committee members states, “It has been a difficult road to get here. Although the real work starts now. Our mission to improve RA working conditions is one we’ll have to work at every single day. We’re looking forward to it!” RPI RA Union explains that the fight for better working conditions and fair compensation has been gaining momentum, and universities are recognizing the value of unionized labor.
A spokesperson for RPI sent NEWS10 additional information addressing the compensation gap mentioned by the RA Union. On top of a stipend, the university noted each resident advisor receives free single room housing, valued at $10,610 for the 2022-2023 academic year. The college says they have been reviewing the annual budgeting process for resident advisory compensation since the fall of 2022.
In they 2024 fiscal year budget, RPI has included an improved, competitive compensation plan investing more than $800,000 in new institute funds to support resident advisors. The university says the new plan will add a dining benefit for each resident advisor phased in over two years starting in the fall of 2023. There will also be increased stipends for lead resident advisors. The university says the expanded compensation plan will add more than $3,325 in value to each resident advisor’s compensation per semester.