Over 4,000 student assistants across the Cal State University campuses filed for union representation Monday, April 17, calling for higher wages and greater benefits.
Backed by the Cal State University Employee Union, student workers from the 23 campuses submitted their union cards to the California Public Employment Relations Board.
This is the largest non-academic student worker organization effort in U.S. history, according to CSUEU.
“Each student assistant is acting alone and lacks the ability to act as a collective and pool resources to ensure that they are treated equitably,” Martin Brenner, the CSUEU Unit 9 statewide chair, wrote in an email statement. “The strength of a union is that we have power in numbers.”
Through unionization, student workers are able to negotiate their salaries and fight for benefits the CSU system may not provide, according to CSUEU President Catherine Hutchinson.
“They (student employees) work because they need the money to support themselves, pay rent, buy food, etc,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “Instead of providing resources to help make the students’ lives easier, the CSU exploits this labor pool because they can.”
According to Brenner, CSUEU aims to provide student assistants with benefits like health insurance, meal allowances, fixed parking rates, compensation for working later shifts and pay classifications with more reasonable pay rates.
Marc Geren, an on-call student assistant at ASI Beach Pantry, said he became an employee to build community at the university and pay for expenses like rent. Despite being accommodating to his class schedule, Geren believes his $15.50 hourly wage could be higher to adjust for inflation.
“As a student, there’s a lot of expenses that we have to pay for like textbooks and school tuition,” Geren said. “The cost of living is also really high, especially in Long Beach.”
Although Geren had not heard of the CSUEU efforts, he is interested in researching the organization’s benefits for student workers and potentially joining.
“I think that they’re (unions) a great thing and a really powerful and useful tool to promote change,” Geren said. “I have to look into it more because it applies to me as a student assistant.”
Camila Gil, a sales associate at the ASI Information and Ticket Center, became a student employee because she heard good things about the job from friends. She enjoys the convenience of working on campus and the positive environment it provides.
Gil works about 15 to 20 hours each week for a $15.50 hourly wage to afford rent and groceries. Although Gil has not joined the union, she is aware of their efforts
“I think I’m pretty happy with my job; they do give us a lot of benefits and they treat us well as workers,” Gil said. “I definitely support them (unionized workers) if they feel like they’re not being treated right in the workplace.”
The CSUEU will hold a rally on Monday for CSULB staff at Brotman Hall to support the union representation efforts.