In a ground-breaking move, residential advisors at the University of Massachusetts -Amherst voted to unionize this month, making them the nation’s first unionized undergraduate employees.

Undergraduate teaching assistants at Columbia University will hope to join them as they vote later this month on unionization. This is an important move which could open a lot of doors to university students, but also may have some unexpected consequences.

The UMass Amherst students have become a part of United Auto Workers Local 2322 against the protests of university administration, who lost a Massachusetts labor-relations commission ruling.

The option of forming a union allows student employees to gain a greater position of influence within the university, and is an important option that students should be allowed to have. But this change will not come without a price.

Residential advisors at UMass Amherst get paid $5,100 a year as compensation, and all but $50 a week goes towards room costs. RAs are also given large single rooms and free internet, but these perks may be jeopardized if the union utilizes its collective bargaining powers to try and gain a pay raise for the RAs.

While legally the university has to accept the union, they are not happy about it. Administration is considering an appeal, and is already threatening to raise dorm fees for all university students and to cut jobs.

The vote was by no means unanimous. 138 of 360 students voted yes and nearly as many abstained, according to a March 17 Times magazine article.

Some students are upset because of the potential threat to some of their accustomed perks, but union supporters argue that these were never a guarantee before. Union officials support student unionization because it provides this generation a link to the union system that was lost during our parents’ generation.

The union will not find a home on all campuses, and may never spread beyond a limited handful of schools. Nonetheless, it is good that the option is available for students to utilize if they choose to do so.

College is the place where we learn about what “real life” is going to be like, and this presents the perfect opportunity to do just that. Going through the organization process and interacting with union leaders can give students a chance to gain real world experience because they will be dealing with factors outside and within the university community, and encountering an organization that has long been a important part of life in the real world.

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