Campus, News

BU ResLife Union to start four-day strike over Boston Marathon weekend

The Boston University ResLife Union voted in favor of authorizing a strike earlier today following unsuccessful negotiations with the university. 

The four-day strike will commence on Friday at noon at Marsh Plaza.

Members of the Boston University Residential Life Union gather behind an empty table representing the delay in contract negotiations for better working conditions at a rally on January 18. The ResLife Union voted to begin a four-day strike Friday at noon to demand better working conditions, including stipends and training for life-saving care. MOLLY POTTER/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

The ResLife Union authorized the strike “because of BU’s dismissal of our demands and delaying at the bargaining table,” according to its website.

“We have been bargaining with the university for months and have not seen meaningful responses to our proposals,” according to the Service Employees International Union Local 509 website. “To win real change, we need to show BU how valuable our work is!”

Negotiations for their first contract have been ongoing for eight months. The ResLife Union had seven negotiation sessions with the university since December 2023, according to BU

Bridgette Bennis, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a resident assistant in Warren Towers, said the university’s claim — that the bargaining process will take “over 400 days” because fresh contracts have new language — does not necessarily apply to the ResLife Union’s contract.

“We are part of the same union group as the grad workers, and we did take inspiration from their language,” Bennis said. “We have been in bargaining sessions where we’ve said, ‘You might recognize this from when the grads have bargained.’”

The university’s counter offer to the initial proposal included free housing during the period of employment, meal plans for all RAs and a $1,000 stipend per semester, with an additional $500 for Graduate Resident Assistants with supervisory responsibilities.

Bennis said the ResLife Union proposed a stipend of $4,500 per semester. She said their contract says “ResLife is supposed to be our largest non-academic commitment,” so a stipend above $1,000 would be “life-changing.”

As part of the strike, the ResLife workers plan on not attending to any of their responsibilities. The RA on-call, in-office shifts and roommate conflict mediation will not be available, Bennis said.

The Residence Life hall and offices will be closed from 7 to 10 p.m. over the weekend due to lack of coverage, Dean of Students Jason Campbell-Foster wrote in an email to all students. 

“We have been preparing as a union because we are striking over Marathon Monday,” Bennis said. “We obviously know that this is a big drinking holiday … so we’ve been trying to reach out to residents and say, ‘the RA on-call will not be available. Call BUPD.’”

Under their current contract, RAs living in traditional-style residences are given an Open Access dining plan. RAs living in apartment-style residences don’t get a meal plan, but are given about $15 per week for food.

“The whole reason that I work in Warren is because I have celiac disease. I can’t eat gluten, and there’s a gluten-free station in the dining halls,” Bennis said. “With the current circumstances, not including the university’s new proposal, it would be impossible for me to live in nicer housing because I wouldn’t be able to eat.”

In an email to all RAs, GRAs and GHAs, the university said they respect their right to strike, but they believe it is “unnecessary” given their progress at the bargaining table.

Campbell-Foster wrote that RAs will be asked to return their office and master keys to the professional staff if they choose not to perform their duties during the strike period. 

The RAs will still have access to their room and their dining plans if they have them, and they will not be charged a daily rate during the strike period.

Bennis said she doesn’t have a consistent salary as an RA, and she can see a “big difference” happening if the university increases their compensation. She said the union relates to the graduate workers, saying “it’s easier to teach if you’re not rent insecure.” 

“It’s easier to be a student and to be an RA when you’re not worrying if the next emergency will just absolutely bankrupt you,” Bennis said.

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