CSU student workers and assistants successfully vote to form a union

This story was updated at 1:10 p.m. Friday to include more student workers’ comments and input from the CSU chancellor’s office.

Students serving as assistants and workers in the California State University system revealed on Friday their approval of unionizing.

Across the 23 campuses, students voted to create one of the largest student worker associations nationwide to advocate for improved pay, working conditions, sick days, paid leave, and increased work hours.

The vote resulted in a strong 7,050 to 202 margin in favor of aligning with the CSU Employees Union (CSUEU).

“This collective decision impacts all of us and our future paths,” noted Cameron Macedonio, a student assistant at CSU Fullerton. “There’s growing discontent among student assistants with the treatment they receive from the CSU administration. They don’t recognize our true value. They act as if we’re replaceable, yet they expect us to perform full-time job duties for minimal wages and without benefits.”

Student assistants commonly earn minimum wage, work 20 hours or fewer per week, and miss out on sick leave and paid time off.

Danny Avitia, a senior pursuing sociology and leadership development at San Diego State, expressed his challenges surviving on $16.50 hourly while supporting the Office of Employee Engagement on campus. He assists the office director in coordinating events, newsletters, graphics, media, and communications.

Avitia cited taking on additional jobs and showing up to work ill as he couldn’t afford to not work due to the absence of paid leave.

According to Avitia, unionizing opens doors for better perks such as parking and transit discounts, as well as campaigning for higher wages since fulfilling basic needs in California has become insufficient.

The next steps involve determining the negotiation goals, forming a negotiation team and leadership, and outlining demands to the Cal State administration. Aligned with the CSUEU, students will receive support from both the organization and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

“With 20,000 student assistants integrating into the CSUEU alongside 16,000 CSU staff members, university management can no longer exploit student labor to diminish staff positions,” noted Catherine Hutchinson, CSUEU’s president. “Uniting serves as a victory for students, staff, and all those invested in the CSU’s mission.”

Many student assistants view unionizing as merely one stage in a prolonged journey toward better remuneration and conditions. They observed the California Faculty Association stage two strikes to secure better terms, representing 29,000 professors and lecturers.

“Challenges may arise,” said Alejandro Carrillo, an international business junior at San Diego State. “Considering the CFA’s strike difficulties, I anticipate equally arduous endeavors for student workers.”

Meanwhile, the chancellor’s office assured it would uphold the existing standards and prerequisites for student assistants.

“The CSU has a rich tradition of offering on-campus job opportunities to students through assistant roles, enabling them to gain valuable work experience while pursuing their degrees,” clarified Leora Freedman, CSU’s vice chancellor for human resources. “The CSU acknowledges the student assistants’ choice to unionize and anticipates engaging in genuine negotiations with the newly established CSUEU student assistant unit.”

California Student Journalism Corps member Jazlyn Dieguez, a fourth-year journalism student at San Diego State University, contributed to this story.

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