Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson RAs unanimously vote to unionize

Emerson+RAs+unanimously+vote+to+unionize
Arthur Mansavage

In a unanimous 67-0 vote, Emerson residential assistants voted to unionize after Wednesday’s election held by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), becoming the first unionized student workers at the college. 

The vote was cast by 83 percent of the RAs that represent the Boston campus. Now, RAs will be represented under the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153 and will get a seat at the table to begin the bargaining process of their contract with the college. 

“We’ve been working toward winning this election since November,” said Sophie Severs, a second-year RA and EURA member in an OPEIU Local 153 article. “It has been incredible to connect with RAs from all across Emerson’s campus under this shared goal. The excitement is palpable and while we know there is much work to do, we’re going to revel in this shared victory for both the RA community and the campus’ residential life as a whole.” 

EURA is the eighth group of RAs to unionize with OPEIU Local 153 since 2022, and now joins other nearby certified RA unions, including Boston University and Tufts University, in its efforts to improve working conditions and increase pay. 

The election’s countdown came after RAs filed for union recognition with the OPEIU Local 153 in November and delivered a letter requesting voluntary recognition to President Jay M. Bernhardt. Despite the petition having over 85 percent support from RAs as of December, the college said it would not recognize EURA as a union. 

The vote was taken up with the NLRB, a federal agency that is responsible for conducting union elections protecting the collective bargaining rights of employers and unions, according to the college’s previous statement on the matter. The vote allowed all affected workers to express their views on union representation through a secret ballot.

“Emerson College recognizes the important role of resident assistants on our campus and congratulates them on the results of the NLRB election supporting the formation of a union, which is tentative until confirmed by the NLRB,” the college said in a statement. “This approach ensured that all affected workers expressed their views on union representation by casting a secret ballot using the NLRB’s election process. The college will not challenge the outcome of the vote and is committed to negotiating in good faith with the new union representing our resident assistants.”

EURA stated in an Instagram post that its major bargaining goals include a stipend to help reduce the number of RAs that need to pick up additional jobs with hourly pay, a priority rehire, data transparency for community policies, and a break duty. Additionally, the union seeks to work collaboratively with HRE to create a clearer accountability process for RAs who utilize the help-seeking policy.

According to OPEIU Local 153, EURA is now going to be taking the next steps in contract negotiations with the college. 

“We are looking forward to the bargaining process,” said Casper Apodaca, a third-year RA and EURA member in the OPEIU Local 153 article. “We want to make the RA position more equitable for future RAs that step into the role, while also preserving the parts of the job that we love. We believe that collective bargaining will help bring meaningful change to this role.”

EURA did not immediately provide the Beacon a comment upon request.

Note: This story was updated to include the college’s Emerson Today statement on the residential assistants union vote.

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About the Contributor
Olivia LeDuc, News Editor
Olivia LeDuc (she/her) is a journalism student and assistant editor for the campus coverage of The Beacon’s news section. When she’s not reporting, you can find her crocheting or going on yet another long walk in the city.
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