Watch CBS News

Tufts University RAs call for stipend, picket on school move-in day

Tufts University RAs call for stipend, picket on school move-in day
Tufts University RAs call for stipend, picket on school move-in day 02:34

MEDFORD - As hundreds of students and their parents moved into Tufts University on Tuesday, they were greeted by a picket line.

ULTRA, the union that represents the school's resident assistants, went on strike on move in day to protest a lack of a contract deal with the university.

ULTRA, or the United Labor of Tufts Resident Assistants, was formed over the winter, and has been in contract negotiations with the school since February.

Currently, RAs, who are tasked with mentoring students in the dorms they live in and often being "on call" for emergencies, are compensated in free housing on campus. That free housing has a value between $9,000 and $12,000 according to Tufts' pricing online.

Tufts University RA strike
Resident assistants picket on move-in day at Tufts University CBS Boston

ULTRA is calling for a stipend in addition to the free housing. According to the union, roughly 70% of RAs are on financial aid and work additional jobs to get by union member David Whittingham told WBZ. "Universities increasingly rely on student labor as a cost saving measure, labor that they would otherwise have to pay adults a significant amount of money more for," he explained.

The university in a statement to WBZ said in part, "We believe that a room and board plan both aligns with our values as an institution and is in line with best practices and industry standards across higher education."

The union move by students was inspired by other universities. Wesleyan College RAs recently became the first at a private university to get a union contract. Boston University RAs voted to unionize over the winter as well.

"The reality is a little more complicated than I think what people like to say of 'these are a bunch of pampered college students who want more money,'" David Whittingham said, pointing out how lower income students tend to take jobs as RAs to help pay for living expenses amid the skyrocketing cost of higher education.

Even with the strikes, parents and students told WBZ move in day went smoothly. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.