Rhode Island School of Design technicians – the school employees who facilitate and operate the various art studios on campus – are going on strike Thursday. Tucker Houlihan, president of NEARI local 806, said this will shutter the art studios to students.
“They are shutting down the kilns,” he said. “They won’t be laser cutting, they won’t be welding. Kids who had those classes, they won’t have it.”
RISD spokewoman Jaime Marland said, “Arrangements are being made to minimize the impact of such an action – in the event of a strike, some shops will be open.”
Houlihan says the 44 employees who run the various studios – there are about 16 different studios, he said, and listed as examples the glass studio, ceramics studio, metal studio and the woodworking studio – play a large role in RISD students’ education. “We’re the ones who have unlimited contact with students because we are in the studios all week,” he said.
Houlihan said the strike will last until the administration returns to the negotiating table.
The technicians and administration have been at odds over a new contract since May of 2014 and they have been working under the old contract since then. In October, the administration declared an impasse, Houlihan said. A mediator told the union to identify budget neutral contract changes.
In response, the union would like their contract to stipulate the pension contribution percentage technicians currently receive from the school. He said it is 8 percent and is spelled out in the faculty handbook but not the contract. The union feels it would be harder for RISD to cut that part of technicians salary if it was spelled out in the contract. Previously, technicians received a 10 percent pension contribution, but it had since been lowered to 8 percent.
Marland, the school spokeswoman, said “RISD has worked closely with the Technicians’ Association bargaining team since May 2014 to reach an agreement that provides the technicians with a competitive wage and benefits package while balancing the college’s critical need to keep the rate of tuition increases low. RISD’s offer to the technicians remains open and the college is hopeful that, if a strike occurs, it will conclude quickly.”
“We are not striking over monetary changes,” Houlihan said. “We’re simply trying to get them to come back to the table and negotiate in good faith.”