Editors’ Note: On Friday, Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes informed the Labor Organization of Community Coordinators that the University was prepared to recognize the proposed union pending a check of authorization cards, The Herald previously reported. This podcast was recorded before that news broke.
Welcome back to the Bruno Brief. I’m Jacob Smollen, Bruno Brief producer and Metro editor. On this week’s episode, we spoke with Ashley Cai, senior staff writer, about her reporting on the Community Coordinators’s rally on the Main Green.
The rally follows the newly formed Labor Organization of Community Coordinators's press release last Friday announcing that a majority of CCs intend to unionize. At the rally, organizers argued their pay is less than the salary of residential assistants at other universities — including the Rhode Island School of Design, where the full price of room and board is covered.
Alisha Guerrero '24 (Community Coordinator)
Even with this salary, it’s clear the CCs are not supported in their roles by residential life. How are we supposed to foster community, plan and grow programs and support residents when we have to worry about how we’re going to afford to exist here.
Organizers also asked for more protections in their contract, which currently allows supervisors to impose last-minute obligations onto community coordinators.
Unionizing will finally give us the power in our workplace that we’ve been asking for for years. So support LOCC in our fight for recognition
So Ashley, can you tell me a little bit about the background for this story?
On Sep. 29 the LOCC or the labor organization of community coordinators announced their intention to unionize and that they had a supermajority of union authorization cards. And on Oct. 3, Tuesday, they rallied on the Main Green with community members and asked the university for voluntary recognition of their union.
And what has the initial unionization process looked like?
Basically, they — in secret without their supervisors' knowledge — went and formed an organizing committee of several people, and that organizing committee went and reached out to all, or as many of the 140 CCs that they could in a one-week span, to try to get as many authorization cards signed as possible. If they get over 65% then they can ask the University for voluntary recognition, and the University has the choice whether they do that or not.
With TALO, that's the Teaching Assistant Labor Organization, they asked for voluntary recognition last fall and didn't get it, so then they had to go to an election process in the spring.
And why are CCs unionizing?
The reason that the CCs are unionizing is basically threefold: One is that they want more comprehensive compensation. So currently they are paid a $10,500 stipend for the academic year and that essentially covers just housing, so many people have to work another job or two more jobs on campus to be able to afford dining as well. And a lot of universities, including RISD, which is just next door, covers both housing and dining for their RAs. When they previously brought this up to their supervisors, their supervisors were like, ‘Your job is not as comprehensive, like you don't have as many roles as RAs at other universities basically, so you're already getting paid enough as is.’
Second, they wanted to unionize because they wanted a more clear contract. So a lot of parts of their contract are made, according to them, intentionally vague so their supervisors can add on responsibilities last minute or late in the night. And if they don't show up to these responsibilities or these new obligations that are suddenly tacked on, then they're reprimanded and after a certain amount of reprimandings, they can be terminated. And because a lot of people depend on this job for housing, they are essentially forced to drop everything and go for their supervisors.
And lastly, they really wanted representation regarding the decision-making that ResLife did, both in regards to their contract and in their obligations, but as well as just things in the residential life community in general.
So what comes next?
Basically, the University has to respond and they decide whether or not to voluntarily recognize the union. LOCC delivered a letter to the University that was basically like, ‘Hey, can you respond to us by Oct. 9, which is next Monday.’ After that, if they are voluntarily recognized, that’s that, they just go to forming a contract. And if they don't voluntarily recognize, then like we saw with TALO in the spring, they'll have to go to an election.
And how does LOCC fit into the context of other recent student labor organizing on campus?
Before last year, the only student labor organization that existed was GLO, which is the graduate labor organization, and then last year, TALO started unionizing, which is the TA labor organization and they represent CS TAs and this is the next one. And because LOCC has the scaffolding created by all these other organizations, they're able to do it much, much faster. Essentially, starting the week of Sept. 20 or so, they started doing what they call a blitz, which is when they talk to as many CC’s as possible and get those authorization cards. Then they announced on Friday and they rallied the next Tuesday.
Ashley, thanks so much for coming in.
Thank you so much for having me
Now here is a recap of other important stories from the week.
Churchill House — the location of the Department of Africana Studies and the Rites and Reason Theatre — completed renovations this fall. The project added 3,000 square feet to the building as well as modernizing and improving the accessibility of existing spaces. The renovation comes after various campus advocates and the University’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism encouraged renovation.
Sojourner House, a Providence-based nonprofit, received one of eight grants as part of a new program from the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women. The two-year, $400,000 grant will be put towards hiring a project coordinator and attorney to oversee the creation of a legal services program that will provide legal representation to victims of domestic violence and help with issues such as custody, child support and divorce.
In other news, President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 introduced a proposed Title IX pilot program at Tuesday’s faculty meeting which would create a single-hearing officer model. The current Title IX program requires decisions about cases to be made by hearing and appeal panels made up of student, staff and faculty members. Paxson argued that the new program is intended to alleviate issues with the current Title IX process where scheduling conflicts can delay proceedings and the panel structure may result in inconsistent rulings.
Lastly, many are now familiar with the late-night scramble to the MBTA following the Harvard-Brown football game, but students might have some more cushion for their journey back to Providence next time. The MBTA recently announced that the Providence/Stoughton line’s last train will run at 11:55 p.m. starting Oct. 2. Previously, the last train on the line departed at 11:00 p.m.
Thanks again for tuning into the fourth episode of this season of the Bruno Brief. This episode was produced by me, Jacob Smollen and Finn Kirkpatrick, edited by Megan Wang, Amanda Sun and Jaanu Ramesh, and scripted by Carter Moyer. If you like what you hear, subscribe to The Bruno Brief wherever you get your podcasts and leave a review. Thanks for listening. We'll see you next week.
Denzel Sprak: https://app.sessions.blue/browse/track/203142