Workers at RISD go on ‘unfair labor practice’ strike

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Workers at the Rhode Island School of Design went on an “unfair labor practice” strike.

General Teamsters Local 251, the union representing movers, custodians and groundskeepers, said the school failed to pay a general wage increase and changing starting rates for workers without allowing them to bargain.

Signs are seen posted in support of Rhode Island School of Design. (WLNE)

Workers said they have been fighting to secure their first contract at the college for the last several months. However, they said negotiations have paused.

“This is a tactic to pressure the college into an inequitable agreement,” Jaime Marland, spokesperson for RISD, wrote in a statement. “After several sessions with a federal mediator, the union received RISD’s last and best offer on February 16.”

A Rhode Island School of Design worker holds a sign that reads, “LIVING WAGE FOR RISD WORKERS.” (WLNE)

Marland said the agreement included RISD providing each worker with a retroactive payments back to last July. General Teamsters Local 251 had until March 1 to accept RISD’s offer.

The school said the union sent a counter-proposal on March 18 that “included unreasonable demands related to benefits and excessive demands for compensation.”

“I don’t think asking for a living wage is unreasonable,” Tony Suazo, Teamsters Local 251 business agent, said. “From our perspective, this is reasonable. It’s up to them to meet us where it is reasonable for the employees.”

The school, said Marland, has been negotiating with the union since June 2022.

“We are committed to bringing this matter to a successful conclusion,” he said.

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