Press Releases

Teamsters Vote to Authorize Strike at Rhode Island School of Design


Essential Workers Demand Higher Standards at Preeminent Art School

Press Contact: Matt McQuaid Phone: (202) 624-6877 Email:

(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) – Teamsters Local 251 members working as custodians, groundskeepers, and movers at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) have voted to authorize a strike by a 95 percent margin.

“These brave men and women are joining tens of thousands of other university workers all across the country who are standing up and demanding that their employers stop acting like Fortune 500 companies and start acting like institutions of higher learning,” said Matt Taibi, Local 251 Secretary-Treasurer and Eastern Region International Vice President. “These workers have been underappreciated and undercompensated for far too long.”

The workers took the strike authorization vote after the university refused to meet a reasonable standard for wages, health care benefits, and a retirement package. As of 2020, RISD has roughly 2,500 students enrolled, an endowment of $440 million, and an operating budget of $161 million.

“Universities are supposed to ascribe to a moral standard loftier than net profit,” said Regina Santos, a Local 251 member who serves on the union negotiating committee. “RISD says it’s ‘committed to furthering progress in Providence and Rhode Island through mutually beneficial engagement with the community.’ We are that very community, so they can start in-house.”

Teamsters Local 251 represents over 6,300 workers in a wide variety of industries throughout Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts. For more information, go to