“Meet us at the BORGaining table”: BU RA’s Join the Picket Line on Marathon Weekend

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By Vanessa Bartlett

BU’s Reslife Union and Grad Workers Union gathered for a rally at Marsh Plaza on Friday

BOSTON – The Boston University Reslife Union joined BU Graduate Workers on strike, walking out during the Boston Marathon weekend, which they describe as the busiest weekend of the year for Reslife workers. 

“You may know, Halloweekeend, Saint Patrick’s Day are huge days and weekends. Marathon Monday is bigger than all of those combined,” said Jasmine Richardson, a second-year RA and junior at BU. “[RA’s] are incredibly valuable to making sure that Boston University is functioning.” 

RA’s have been negotiating with BU for a contract since December. According to an SEIU-509 press release, undergraduate RA’s, Graduate RA’s and Graduate Hall Assistants all receive housing as compensation. 

The Reslife Union is fighting for a $15/hour wage and a meal plan for all RA’s, as well as temperature control for the summer, a commitment to back-pay, narcan and CPR training, and increased job security. 

RA’s gave BU an ultimatum: meet our demands, or we strike on Marathon weekend. BU dragged their feet, waiting until the day before RA’s were set to strike to respond to the union’s proposals, and not responding to several of their biggest demands.

“We provided ample opportunity for us to reach an agreement with BU, and they kept fumbling the ball,” said Richardson.

Reslife workers and allies picketing in front of Warren Towers on Friday

Currently, RA’s are subject to dismissal from their positions if their GPA drops below a 2.70 (a B-minus average). “We have actually filed a ULP over this, because only after we unionized was this enforced,” said Richardson. “One staffer was able to prove she never had above a 2.7 for the entire academic year, 2022 through 2023, and then she was fired this year, over the GPA issue. And that was after she had provided many hours of her labor.”

Community supporters and union members at Friday’s rally on Marsh Plaza

The fact that RA’s job security and housing security are dependent on students’ academic performance, on top of the lack of monetary compensation for hours of labor, add up to an extremely exploitative situation for RA’s.

Guensly “G” Desir shared her story as an RA who lost their job when BU started enforcing GPA requirements for RA’s.

Guensly Desir, an RA in BU’s South Campus, spoke on Friday about being fired over GPA requirements. “One bad semester, or even one bad grade, can cost us our ability to afford living on campus, which is exactly what happened to me last semester,” said Desir. “We deserve a contract that protects our peace of mind as we take on the roles of student leaders.”

BUGWU member Meia Sparks-Lin delivers an impassioned speech at Friday’s rally.

“That BU continues to funnel its most financially vulnerable students into unpaid jobs under the promise of housing remission is not an accident. They refuse to meet your demands because they challenge the very system of debt trapping that inflates BU’s $150 million operational surplus,” said BUGWU member Meia Sparks-Lin, speaking at Friday’s rally. 

RA’s have now returned to work, but BUGWU remains on strike for a fair contract. As grads enter their fourth week on the picket line, they are still asking for strike fund donations. You can donate at givebutter.com/bugwufund

Vanessa Bartlett is a staff organizer for UAW, an editor of Working Mass, and a member of Boston DSA. She has a background in print and radio journalism, but please don’t hold that against her.

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