United students against sweatshops local 54 campaign for Resident Assistants
Montgomery Hall, a residence hall at UMD on Nov.3,2023. (Alexa Figueroa)
The United Students Against Sweatshops local 54 (USAS Local 54) is one of 150 USAS organizations fighting for labor rights of students.
With the estimated price of attendance for the 2023-2024 school year being around 30 thousand for in-state students and almost 60 thousand for out-of-state students, many UMD students look to become resident assistants, who live in a community of 45-75 residents and are responsible for responding to the personal needs of residents and manage various tasks including duty and crisis management. All RAs receive remission of housing, dining, and basic telecommunications fees according to the Reslife website.
Despite receiving free housing, RA’s do not receive cash payment, and according to the University of Maryland’s Resident Assistant Conditions of Employment, Resident Assistants can only hold a job outside of their RA position through the permission of their Resident directors, and are only allowed to work a maximum of nine hours a week at said job.
United students against sweatshops local 54 has campaigned to raise Maryalnd’s minimum wage. They have also added Resident Assistants into their campaign.
Grace Orellana, a senior immersive design major and president of USAS Local 54, explains the student organizations thought process in including RA’s in their campaign.
“We thought that a great way to incorporate RA’s into our campaign is to get them at least paid for their summer training because that is not accounted for in the amount of hours we work in our contract,”said Orellana.
Tafor Acho, a junior environmental science & technology major and resident assistant
says that the long hours expected of being an RA restrict how much time they are allowed to work.
“A lot of people are RA’s for a reason, that’s because they can’t afford housing and board, and so that insecurity financially mixes into other parts of their life as well. Which explains why they would have to work so much, but restricting them really hold them back, ”said Acho.
Raquel Chaupiz, an RA and junior majoring in public health also became an RA as a means of lowering her tuition expenses, and getting to be a leader.
“Since I still wanted to live on campus without enduring the burden of paying for my housing, I decided that becoming an RA could combat this,” said Chaupiz.
Chaupiz says that despite how time consuming being an RA can be, she tries to manage her time and communicate with her fellow co-workers who work in Res-life.
Sign for Annapolis Hall on Nov.3,2023. (Alexa Figueroa)
D’marco Arteaga, a junior kinesiology major and RA says the beginning of the semester tends to be the most stressful on Resident Assistants.
“It’s a lot of time commitment in the beginning [of the semester] just because you have to put a lot of posters and flyers up and then usually training is 8am to 6,” said Arteaga.
Arteaga also said that when becoming an RA you must talk with your Resident-Director about your availability to make sure you do not exceed the 9 hours RA’s are allowed for work or other activities.
“You talk with your RD about conflicts and other things that you’re a part of and you basically lay out everything that you do and the amount of hours that you work with it and then you talk with your RD (Resident Director) about seeing are you able to handle it or not and then is this going to conflict with anything with the RA position, said Arteaga.