General Teamsters Local 251 ratifies new contract with RISD, ending strike

Wage increases secured for custodians, groundskeepers and movers

By: - April 18, 2023 8:12 pm
RISD students spray paint "$8,000 for what?" to a building during Wednesday's demonstrations.

RISD students spray paint “$8,000 for what?” to a sign on a building during the strike on April 12. (Photo by Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

PROVIDENCE — A strike in its third week at the Rhode Island School of Design ended Tuesday with the ratification of a new contract with General Teamsters Local 251.  

The announcement came a day after the parties came to a tentative agreement on wages.

“Rhode Island School of Design is pleased to report our movers, custodians and grounds services staff members voted to accept our proposal today (4/18), and we have completed the formal process of ratifying their contract,” Rhode Island School of Design spokeswoman Danielle Mancuso said in an email. “The contract reflects and advances RISD’s commitment to social equity and inclusion.

“Further, RISD is committed to taking immediate and long-term action to better embody our values and priorities concerning base wages for our lowest paid employees. That work is underway.”

Teamsters Business Agent Tony Suazo said the union vote was unanimous.

“Everyone over $20 starting this July,” he said in a brief text message Tuesday. He added the workers will return to their jobs Wednesday.

According to the contract, all custodians, groundskeepers and movers with a minimum of 12 months service will earn $20.20 per hour as of July 1. 

Custodians will see wage increases up to $21.86 per hour by July 1, 2027. Groundskeepers with 12 months of service will earn $21.25 starting July 2023 and be paid $23 an hour by July 2027.

The largest wage increases will go to lead custodians, who currently make $18.35 hourly. Their wage jumps to $21.25 come July 2023 and be at $24.62 by July 2027.

A full list of the wages is available on the Rhode Island Current website here.

The strike by the 62 workers represented by the union began on April 3 after months of negotiation over wages and working conditions. 

Initially, administration at the Rhode Island School of Design said the wage increase would be “fiscally irresponsible” and that they would not move. 

A pivotal moment in the strike occurred on April 12 when faculty and students walked out in solidarity with the striking custodians, groundskeepers, and movers. Both sides reported positive movement in negotiations shortly after.

The Rhode Island School of Design was established in 1877 and currently has 2,620 enrolled. Annual tuition at the institution is $58,690.


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Kevin G. Andrade
Kevin G. Andrade

Kevin G. Andrade previously covered education, housing and human services for Rhode Island Current.