Union Demands College Puts Its Ethos into Action

(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) – Teamsters Local 251 has filed unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) for failing to pay a general wage increase and changing starting rates for workers without providing them with notice or an opportunity to bargain. The charges were filed amid the workers’ fight to secure their first contract at the college.

“Contract negotiations between the Teamsters and RISD have been drawn out for months because the university has refused to give workers a fair shake,” said Matt Taibi, Local 251 Secretary-Treasurer and Eastern Region International Vice President. “On top of that, RISD announced it will increase tuition at the same time as it plays games at the bargaining table. This behavior doesn’t benefit the workers who make RISD run, and if the school doesn’t want to pay its staff more, why does it have to increase costs?”

In a recently circulated memo, RISD announced they would be raising room and board costs four percent for the upcoming academic school year. However, it stated that the additional revenue generated by the tuition hike would not go towards workers’ salaries. Instead, RISD “will begin working with faculty and staff to determine how those cost savings can occur over the course of the next academic year.”

RISD also recently announced its withdrawal from U.S. News & World Report's college rankings. In the announcement, President Crystal Williams said, “Our institutional commitment to embodying the principles of social equity and inclusion also means that, where possible, we eschew participation in systems that strongly rely on exclusion and inequity.”

“RISD is behaving hypocritically by refusing to grant workers compensation that is commensurate with what other union-represented Rhode Island college and university workers receive,” Taibi said. “If the administration is actually committed to social equity and inclusion, they can demonstrate that by paying the college’s staff their fair share and providing greater transparency for the school’s finances.”  

Last week, Teamsters launched a letter writing campaign to RISD President Crystal Williams and her cabinet members demanding they practice what they preach and compensate workers adequately. More than 1,700 individuals have participated in the letter writing campaign to date.

Teamsters Local 251 represents over 6,300 workers in a wide variety of industries throughout Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. For more information, go to