The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer


Rose Hill RA Union Remains in Contract Negotiations

The resident assistants report slow progress on collective bargaining efforts, which have been ongoing since May
Rose Hill RAs across the residence halls, including Martyrs Court shown above, have been calling for compensation, protection and communication.

Members of the Rose Hill Resident Assistants (RA) union at Fordham are still in the process of reaching an agreement with Fordham University over their demands. The union, which represents all RAs at the Rose Hill campus, is calling for an increase in compensation, improved paths of communication with the Office of Residential Life at Rose Hill, and protection from dismissal due to violations of stipulations in undistributed handbooks. 

According to Tarchithaa Chandra Sekharan, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’24, the union’s elected bargaining committee consists of twelve members, nine of which, including herself, presented a shared statement to The Observer. These members include Mo Kranwinkel-Omisore, Teshley Kamen, Araly Langomas and Chandra Sekharan, all FCRH ’24; Henry Pelmas, Heba Elsetouhi, Sophia Ghelardini and Isabella Guaraniello, all FCRH ’25; and Seamus Dougherty, FCRH ’26. 

These bargaining committee members conjunctly expressed both optimism and concern about the ongoing negotiations. 

“There has been a change in communication from the administration since the efforts of the union began,” the statement read. “We have protection in a way we never did before with the union and resources to check in with to quell our fears of dismissal over any unreasonable and unstandardized expectations that may come up.”

In a social media post uploaded to the union’s Instagram account on Feb. 1, the caption announced the unionization of Rose Hill RAs, where they expressed that they were “tired of no pay, and a lack of respect and communication.” Rose Hill RAs also noted their desire for compensation, protection and communication as the baseline for their unionization efforts; the union organized a rally on Feb. 3 and has since hosted several events, such as an information session and social event, which have been open to all Fordham resident assistants. 

A formal motion to unionize — with a 76% approval rate from the Rose Hill RA staff — was presented to University President Tania Tetlow on Feb. 1. The university refused to acknowledge or accept the union, according to another post uploaded to the union’s Instagram page. Afterward, a formal vote among RAs was held on March 21, the results of which (47-19) mandated that the university recognize the union.

“We believed that we no longer should be exploited and treated as if our labor was replaceable and was not attached to our personhood and are now empowered by collective power,” the statement from members of the bargaining committee said. 

Additionally, according to the statement, some bargaining committee members noted that although the Rose Hill RAs wait for responses from the university on changes made to their contracts , this often results in no response being received whatsoever. With the ongoing unionization efforts, however, the RA’s are able to negotiate and collectively organize to improve contracts, which determine their compensation, commitments and job description. 

The Rose Hill RA union is represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153, a union of over 103,000 employees in the Northeast region. Scott Williams, the Rose Hill RAs’ OPEIU representative, shared that OPEIU provides legal assistance to the students and has helped the team navigate their relationship with Fordham both as students and as an employee union. 

OPEIU also represents RA unions at numerous other colleges and universities, including Barnard, Tufts and the University of Pennsylvania.  

According to Williams, the Rose Hill RAs did not have a detailed official job description or handbook last year, and current RAs for the 2023-24 academic year are in the process of outlining their roles and responsibilities with the hope of attaining the three pillars they were bargaining for.

“Through organizing and coming together, student workers can have a real voice and work to improve the quality of life for students at Fordham through the collaboration and respect that is the collective bargaining process,” Williams said.

In advocating for a stronger voice in the Rose Hill RA employment contract, summer training sessions organized by Fordham and the RA union in 2023 allowed for the union to ask questions about their employment contract.

The training sessions are a new initiative led by the Rose Hill RA union’s bargaining committee. Prior to this system, the employment contract was ascribed to RAs without the opportunity to collectively negotiate factors such as compensation and the ability to have a grievance procedure, members of the bargaining committee noted. 

Despite the implementation of these sessions, some members of the bargaining committee claim they have yet to receive an official updated handbook, which was promised to them by the university during the summer training sessions in August. The handbook stipulates the processes of dealing with grievances, programming procedures for residents and other details regarding RA employment.  

“We believe that this union and the contract we are working on will bring us closer to Residential Life in the long term,” the bargaining commitee wrote in the shared statement. “The contract we are bargaining for collectively is one that we hope will bring accountability and understanding between us the employees and Fordham the employer.”

According to the university’s union negotiations page of the website, the most recent bargaining session occurred on Oct. 4. While no new proposals were presented to Fordham’s administration, three counter-proposals were given relating to nondiscrimination, terms of appointments and orientation. Furthermore, the university made two new proposals on management rights and no protests.

“We are empathetic to the RA’s experiences and look forward to working together to develop a shared standard for the working environment,” the university’s human resources website reads. 

Bob Howe, associate vice president of communications, declined to comment further on the university’s position toward the union’s efforts. 

According to the university’s information page on the union negotiations, additional bargaining sessions are scheduled for Nov. 8 and Nov. 15.

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DYLAN VILELA, Staff Writer

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