In my experience, the idea that designers are considered above “workers” is not discussed at RISD. To some degree everyone works with their hands at RISD, even in majors predominantly digital, so it certainly is odd to think of labor as lesser. However, the divide is definitely true. The designer is above the workers. Designers often are granted a social respect that laborers do not receive, possibly because of education discrimination. It comes as no surprise to me that in order to have a sustainable (perhaps utopian) society, workers must receive respect and a living wage.
I hope the Industrial Design department, for instance, considers the people making their products. The same outsourcing issue exists in animation.