Drexel University RAs vote to unionize following protest

‘We’ve been left underappreciated and under-compensated for the time we invest into this school,’ claimed one RA.

RAs receive ‘a financial compensation of a room in the residence halls’ and ‘a meal plan,’ according to Drexel.

Drexel University Resident Assistants (RAs) protested at the school on March 14 to express their support for unionizing.

RAs from Drexel, which is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, gathered at the school’s “Mario the Magnificent” dragon statue, citing low pay and what they called housing insecurity as some reasons for their protest, reported Drexel’s student paper The Triangle

According to one of the protesting RAs, “[d]uring the rally, [Office and Professional Employees International Union] 153 had a meeting with Drexel administration and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and [they] concluded that we will have a union election April 11,” The Triangle reported.

In the April 11 election, Drexel RAs voted to unionize in a 63-4 vote, according to The Triangle.  

Drexel University provides its RAs with “a financial compensation of a room in the residence halls, a meal plan, and small [sic] stipend each term.” For the 2024-2025 academic year, undergraduate housing totals $11,232 and food costs $6,864, according to Drexel’s website. 

“We’ve been left underappreciated and under-compensated for the time we invest into this school,” said one student who appeared in an Instagram post from the group showing highlights of the protest.  

One RA, Helene Chibane, stated that she started her position with a stipend of $90 a month, with that amount eventually rising to $100 a month, a raise that is insufficient to outgrow inflation, according to The Triangle.

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Chibane continued: “From Day 1, we are constantly reminded that we are replaceable. This message is constantly instilled in our work life. In training, at staff meetings and one-on-ones, this is horrendously discouraging and instills a fear of speaking up for changes in our position. This has prevented us [from] advocating for improvements, and this has resulted in many tremendous RAs burning out and prematurely leaving the position” reported The Triangle

Protestors eventually moved from the Mario statue to the school’s Main Building to present university President John Fry with a petition to unionize, and Drexel Police stopped public access to the building and only permitted ten RAs to enter, The Triangle wrote. 

RAs had previously presented this petition to President Fry on March 11, at the same time as a press release was issued from the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 153, The Triangle wrote. 

The press release announced that “[a]lthough this job is only classified as part-time, RAs have seen the position become an overwhelming, 24/7 job” with low compensation and other disadvantages. 

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Pennsylvania House Representative Rick Krajewski (D) praised Drexel RAs for the petition, writing on X: “Sending solidarity to the Drexel RAs! I was a proud supporter of the historic RA union that launched at Penn last spring and am so excited to see more RAs in the neighborhood join the wave.” 

Campus Reform reached out to Drexel University for comment. This article will be updated accordingly. 

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