by August Linton
Originally published May 3, 2023
CSU officials are now deciding whether student workers should be allowed to unionize, after students petitioned the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) on April 17 for the right to take a union vote. This was accompanied by around 4,300 signatures from CSU student workers.
Daniel Chaidez is a student assistant at CPH, working for the university’s Waste Reduction Resource Awareness (WRRAP) Program. He says that the Let Us Vote campaign will hopefully give students a better foothold for bargaining with the university.
“It would just make things a little more equitable and bring a little more awareness to the issues that student workers are currently facing,” Chaidez said.
Chaidez tabled on the UC Quad on April 18 along with Stephen Green, a labor relations representative for CSUEU, the CSU employees union. The CSUEU is taking an active role in supporting students working for unionization.
“When hiring a lot of student assistants it’s very unorganized in a lot of ways,” Chaidez said. “It feels like it’s just a way for the school to get easy labor from students.”
“[Student Workers are] a pretty significant part of the workforce that keeps this campus running, or the system running,” Green said. “And they don’t get treated with a lot of respect. They get abused, and they have no voice at all in their working conditions.”
Chaidez thinks that better parking infrastructure for student workers would be a good first step, either with subsidized/discounted parking passes or reserved spaces. Another concern for Chaidez is the weekly hours caps for student workers.
“A lot of students are cut off at 6 or 7 hours a week,” Chaidez said. “And that’s not really working for a lot of people.”
Many student assistants and employees are paid minimum wage, and at 6 or 7 hours a week, this forces them to supplement with second or even third jobs to make ends meet. More jobs means less time for students to study, let alone relax.
Some CSU student workers are even paid less than the minimum wage in their area. This is because the CSU only pays state-wide minimum wage as a state-wide organization, as reported by CalMatters.
If the board approves this request, workers at CSU universities will have the opportunity to organize, something which is automatically given to non-student workers.
“It’s kinda a new thing for students to have a union on campuses,” Chaidez said.
Other universities and university systems have had high-profile unionization processes recently, including the University of Oregon and the UC system, according to Green. If the request to unionize at the CSU is approved and the students vote to unionize, the resulting organization would be the largest student employee union.
“Generally, the PERB is pretty worker-friendly,” Green said. “I think we have a pretty good case, that we’ve submitted a sufficient amount of legitimate signatures.”
In the meantime, advocates continue to gather support, hoping to apply pressure to the PERB.
Student workers who wish to join the unionization effort can contact the CSUEU to sign a union card, and to add their signature to the PERB petition.
“You don’t want to assume these things, so we’re still gathering more signatures,” Green said.