By Declan Bradley, Alex Diamond, and Owen Fidler, with photography by Adrian Keller Feld and additional reporting by Ray Perry, Louis Chase, and Liam O’Brien.
At a student protest in the afternoon of Friday, September 22, Reed College House Advisors (HAs) announced that they plan to form a labor union.
HAs have worked in collaboration with Employees International Union Local 11 on unionization efforts for at least the past month, said EIUL Executive Officer Howard Bell, who spoke at the protest. Bell asked the college to voluntarily recognize the union, saying “[we] don’t want to go to battle,” and asked the college to “just sit down and bargain with me.”
Bell then invited Vice President for Student Life Karnell McConnell-Black, who was in the crowd, to the stage to voluntarily recognize the new union at that moment. When no response was immediately heard, Bell instructed the crowd to part to reveal Dr. McConnell-Black standing on the other side of the green. Bell then invited Dr. McConnell-Black to the stage again, to which he responded, “This is y’all’s protest.” When Dr. McConnell-Black still did not come to the stage, student House Advisor Eli Rall ‘26 — a leader of unionization efforts — walked through the crowd and physically handed Dr. McConnell-Black a document requesting that the college voluntarily recognize the union.
When Rall returned to the stage, Bell requested that Dr. McConnell-Black come to the stage again, at which point Rall seemed to say something to him that was not audible. Bell expressed his desire to defer to Rall’s judgment as a “leader,” and moved to the next stage of his speech. When approached by Quest reporters after the protest and asked if the college would voluntarily recognize the union, Dr. McConnell-Black declined to comment.
This response comes amid continued concerns from House Advisors about changes to their job descriptions, which were first voiced at a Student Body Senate meeting last February. Those changes include the implementation of “rounds” — which require HAs to patrol in and around their dorms, often late at night — and a minimum GPA requirement, among others.
Student HAs who spoke at the protest, like Kalen Da Sylveira ‘25, expressed concerns about the college’s handling of the position changes. “I do not feel as if [the administration] feels prepared to lead us as a group,” Da Sylveira said, and went on to describe this year’s HA training process as “unstable.” Da Sylveira, who, like all HAs, was trained in first aid and suicide prevention, also said, “I don’t feel comfortable being the one to perform CPR.”
HA Isabelle Wong, meanwhile, emphasized the difficulty of having four jobs on top of her role as an HA, without which she would struggle financially to attend Reed. She went on to label the new policy of performing rounds as redundant. Wong also questioned Reed’s claim that it pursues a harm-reduction-focused drug policy and asked, “Why are you [the college] putting HA’s — who are majority disabled or people of color — in dangerous situations after 10 pm or later?”
HA Lennox Reeder ‘25 then went on to discuss the implementation of a GPA requirement for HAs, saying that they don’t even know their own GPA, labeling the requirement as unfitting of Reed, and commenting, “We [students] came here because we love learning and not for some silly number.”
Student Body Senator Meera Balan ‘26, who also works as an HA, expressed her concerns that the new model of HA training focused more on self-care and “yoga” than topics like sexual assault, which received “mere hours” of instruction. “The training was nothing less than superficial marketing,” Balan said.
After these speeches, HA Lina Eid ‘26 announced that the HAs had decided to move to form a union saying, “We, the HAs of Reed College, are proud to publicly announce that we’re unionizing,” to sustained applause. Eid then followed this significant news by stating, “We refuse to be silent and refuse to be swayed by empty promises.”
After the announcement of the union plans Howard Bell, executive officer of the local OPEIU chapter, was handed the microphone and affirmed his and the over 100,000 members of OPEIU’s support for the formation of the Union of Reed College House Advisors, or URCHA. This included promises to support URCHA, saying “We’re going to make it happen.”
After the protest concluded, Rall reflected on the event, saying, “I’m feeling really good. This protest went really well.” They went on to clarify the possible next steps of this movement stating, “If the college does not move to voluntary recognition, then we will move to a Union Election.”
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More coverage forthcoming.