Rhode Island labor roundup



On March 23, union custodians, grounds keepers, caretakers, and movers in Teamsters Local 251 went on a one-day Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), a prestigious school in downtown Providence.

In a statement released by the union, Matt Taibi, secretary-treasurer of Local 251 and Teamsters Eastern Region vice president, said, “RISD workers are on strike today because they refuse to be treated like expendable labor. For months, RISD has refused to negotiate in good faith and deployed unlawful labor practices to stall negotiations. Our members play a critical role in keeping the college running smoothly and it’s time for RISD leadership to come to the table and offer the workers a strong first contract.”

The school was given many opportunities to settle the contract prior to the strike action. Preceding the ULP strike, on Feb. 15, labor, community and student activists came together for an informational picket line that publicly addressed their needs.

The union won bargaining rights at RISD in June 2022 and has been attempting to negotiate a fair contract ever since. According to picket captain Mike Simone, RISD has agreed upon most non-economic demands, but refuses to bargain in good faith on wages. Hourly wages run around $15 for most RISD workers, some with more than 20 years on the job. With an endowment of $440,000,000, an operating budget of $161,000,000, and tuition of over $72,000 a year, as Simone points out, the college is more than able to provide its workers with a living wage.

Teamsters Local 251 was joined by 40-50 supporters from the United Food and Commercial Workers; Service Employees International Union; Providence Federation of Musicians; Academic Support Association, NEARI Local 807; Brown Graduate Labor Alliance, AFT Local 6516 (who are in the middle of their negotiations); and the Brown Student-Labor Alliance.


On Feb. 17, it was announced that after over seven months on strike, Teamsters Local 251 workers have successfully ended their strike against a DHL contractor in Pawtucket, R.I. The struggle for a good contract had its difficulties: On Sept. 9, 2022 police pepper sprayed, assaulted workers, and arrested five workers. However, in the face of cop attacks on their picket line, the strikers held firm and rested wage and benefit gains from Northeast Transportation, the sub-contractor at the DHL facility.

In a statement released by the Teamsters, Tiffany Thompson, a driver at Northeast Transportation, said, “Our seven-month strike has been life-changing. It brought us stronger together and allowed us to secure this historic contract. Solidarity is at an all-time high after a long fight like this. When Teamsters stand united, anything is possible!”

Along with the wage gains, the workers won more holidays and paid time off, with an increase in health care. Since organizing in 2017, the 40 union subcontracted drivers have held two lengthy strikes that have won serious gains.


The Brown Graduate Labor Organization (GLO), affiliated with AFT Local 6516, has entered into negotiations with the university for its second contract. Hopes are high among the grad students, as their first contact negotiation ended with gains in benefits as well as a 19% wage increase.

Following a Feb. 15 rally in support of the student/worker contract fight, both the union and the college sat down for their first session at the negotiating table. Issues centered around accessibility and equity. Graduate workers were concerned about health care, COVID-19 protections, discrimination and harassment, a stronger leave policy, and more.

GLO President Sherena Razek GS was quoted in the Brown Daily Herald as saying, “The University is calling what they brought to the table counter proposals, but they were outright rejections. We’ve heard from grad workers that there are issues of mold and mildew in the spaces that are provided to us to teach, study, learn and live, and the University responded to that by saying that ‘all University spaces are ADA-compliant.’”

The negotiation team has also pushed the Brown administration to accept opening bargaining so that anyone covered by the contract could attend the sessions and see negotiations first hand.

Photo: Teamsters Local 251 Facebook page.

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