Demonstration at RISD

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If you drove down South Main St. in Providence around lunch time today (April 6) you may have seen a huge truck of teamsters and hundreds of chanting RISD students with big, colorful signs flooding (in an orderly fashion) the street at 20 Washington Place, near the RISD Museum and bus tunnel.

The students turned out to support striking technicians – the staff who keep equipment, studios and workshops running. They went on strike last week after months of contract negotiations, with disputed points centering on retirement plan contributions – the union representatives were looking for a core contribution of 8% from the school.

At the end of the rally, technician union spokesperson Tucker Houlihan revealed that, in anticipation of the rally, top RISD officials had met with union representatives earlier in the day, and had agreed to reopen negotiations. This was met with roaring jubilance from the crowd’s mix of students and techs.

“We knew people would come, but this response is beyond anything we expected – I’m blown away by the support,” said computer lab technician Dean Abanilla of the turnout.

Student Danica Mitchell, who addressed the crowd briefly, said the day’s turnout was triumphant in support the technicians and “transparency in the school administration’s practices and a great step toward getting students involved in the administration of the school.”

After announcing the tentative agreement reached that morning, Houlihan said of the gathering, “This is respect, and this is value.” Fighting back emotion that carried through as his voice choked a little, he closed with, “Now let’s all go to the studios and make some work.”

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