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Supporters of RA Unionization march through Locust Walk on Mar. 31. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

The National Labor Relations Board certified the formation of a union for Penn resident advisors and graduate resident advisors.

Following a seven-day certification waiting period, the NLRB published on Oct. 6 an official certification of the union election, over six months after a supermajority of Penn RAs and GRAs filed to form a union. RAs and GRAs overwhelmingly chose to unionize in a 142-22 vote, representing an approximate 75% turnout from the University’s nearly 220 RAs. 

Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 153 organizer Scott Williams, a 2016 graduate of Penn’s Graduate School of Education, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that since the union election on Sept. 27 to 28, “in a lot of ways, people have taken a breath before the next big step.” 

Williams said that he expects an “even longer and harder campaign” to win a contract with Penn that responds to the RAs’ demands and desired working conditions.

“This is democracy in action — the RAs coming together and really deciding what they want to see in their contract and job description,” Williams said. “They’re going to be able to put their creativity, their thinking, and their best practices and ideas from their experience at work to really come up with the best policies to make this the best place to work and to live for students.”

Williams said that the union still needs to elect a bargaining committee, and RAs will have the opportunity to nominate themselves this week. He expects the bargaining committee to ultimately consist of around 20 representatives.

In response to a request for comment, University spokesperson Ron Ozio confirmed that the NLRB has certified the results of the election and that the Office and Professional Employees International Union is now the official bargaining representative for all RAs and GRAs.

“Consistent with NLRB procedures, once the University receives OPEIU’s request to initiate collective bargaining, we will proceed to the next steps in this process,” Ozio wrote to the DP.

College senior and former Rodin College House RA Mica Lin-Alves, who had a central role in rallying for unionization, wrote to the DP that he hopes the union victory "sends a message that RAs really [have] a say in their work, and that they really care about their work."

"We hear a lot about democracy, engagement, and participation at this university, and this will be a real test of those principles," Lin-Alves wrote. "This is the real deal now."

College sophomore and Fisher-Hassenfeld College House RA Omar Elsakhawy wrote to the DP that the union also needs to undergo bargaining training ahead of creating the committee itself.

"Our hopes are to continue gauging RA interest regarding what they want to see out of a union," Elsakhawy said.

Williams said that he aims to start negotiations with the University by the end of October and complete negotiations during the spring 2024 semester, depending on the “collaboration and willingness of the employer.”

“Every workplace is different, but a lot of universities have been able to negotiate in good faith and admiration over several months,” Williams told the DP, adding that negotiating over summer months is typically more difficult.