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Student ResLife workers announce unionization effort

March 5, 2024

Student members of Residential Life (ResLife) staff announced their intention to unionize today, seeking what they consider to be a more fair compensation package.

In an email to President Safa Zaki, signed by more than 60 members of ResLife, students requested that the College recognize their union by Friday. The email was delivered by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153, with whom the potential union will be organizing.

In a statement, organizers cited insufficient compensation and an excess of unpaid working hours as a few of their reasons for undertaking the effort to unionize.

“We just wish to be compensated more,” organizer Luke Robinson ’26 said in an interview with the Orient. “Our employers are people. They come and go. While we have cordial relations with them now, we might not in the future. It would be good to set up a structure from which we can negotiate better working conditions.”

Student ResLife staff members’ stipends do not fully cover housing costs. For the 2023-2024 school year, Residential Assistants (RAs) earn $3,600, Proctors earn $4,680 and Head RAs earn $6,900. For this academic year, housing costs $8,488, and a full meal plan costs an additional $9,202.

“In most other schools, ResLife is seen as an avenue in which you can find affordable housing. You get free room and board. Here, that’s just not the case,” Robinson said.

Organizer Sam Turrigiano ’26 said that ResLife compensation at the College is lower than most other liberal arts institutions.

“The total compensation package that we have barely changes [yearly]. It’s just so frustrating. The pay pales in comparison to even other northeast liberal arts colleges,” Turrigiano said.

The union is also seeking a new contract in response to uncompensated summer training sessions and for what they see as additional unpaid labor associated with the job, such as providing mental and emotional support to their students. The new contract, they hope, will fairly compensate them for this aspect of their job. According to the petition submitted to the College, more than 80 percent of the total 78 student ResLife staff members support the effort.

The Bowdoin Labor Alliance (BLA) has endorsed the unionization effort and has been working with the group toward the effort for the past several months.

“Workers sustain this institution. They deserve a say,” BLA leader Ahmad Abdulwadood ’24 said.

Bowdoin’s ResLife unionization effort comes on the heels of successful unionization efforts at other liberal arts colleges, including one at Tufts University. Tufts’ RA union, United Labor of Tufts Resident Assistants, formed in the fall of 2022 and successfully organized a month-long strike that resulted in a new contract between Tufts RAs and the university.

OPEIU also helped organize the unionization effort at Tufts. OPEIU will provide lawyers and negotiators during the negotiation process if this effort is successful.

In response to the petition, the College can decide to recognize the union voluntarily. If it doesn’t, the effort will proceed to an official vote facilitated by the National Labor Relations Board that requires a simple majority. If the board votes in favor of the unionization effort, contract negotiations between the student ResLife staff and the College can begin.

Neither Zaki nor Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of ResLife Whitney Hogan could be reached for comment by the time of publishing.

Union organizers remain hopeful for the months ahead.

“It’s been really reaffirming to get that many signatures—to see that there’s been this overwhelming support from within the unit. We hope to carry that momentum through break and into elections,” Robinson said.

This is a developing story.


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  1. sam says:

    How amazing! I am looking forward to seeing this progress and am heartened to see workers organizing on campus.

  2. Ben '20 says:

    This is wonderful news! It is inspiring to see Bowdoin RAs join other student workers around the country. All workers deserve a voice in their workplace.

  3. John '16 says:

    Great news! Student workers deserve fair compensation and working conditions.

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