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CSU student workers overwhelmingly approve new labor union

California State University Employee Union

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Student-workers across the California State University (CSU) system announced their vote to create the nation's largest union of undergraduate workers was successful Friday.

Of the 7252 electronically cast votes across 23 separate campuses, 7050 student workers voted yes to form the new labor organization. A 97% approval rate.

“Standing strong, together in our union, student assistants are ready to ensure the nation’s largest and most diverse university system lives up to its promise of opportunity and equity; that’s what’s possible now that we’ve won our seat at the CSU’s decision-making table,” said Colin Culver, a student assistant at San Diego State University and an early participant in organizing the effort.

The new labor organization boasts nearly 20,000 members, making it the largest group representing undergraduate students in the nation state a press release about the results from the CSU Chancellor's Office.

“The CSU has a long history of providing on-campus jobs to students through student assistant positions, which give our students the opportunity to gain valuable work experience while they pursue their degrees," said CSU Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Leora Freedman. "The CSU respects the decision of student assistants to form a union and looks forward to bargaining in good faith with the newly formed CSUEU student assistant unit.”

Some current conditions of employment are unique to student assistants such as a cap of 20 hours per week as well as no sick time or holiday pay.

“We all voted yes for better pay, sick time, and more hours,” explained Gem Guitierrez a student assistant at Sacramento State. “Many of us will only be here for four years but we know that this isn’t just for us – this is for every student worker who comes after us.”

Student assistants submitted a petition in April of 2021 officially asking the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to approve the union election.

The California State University Employee's Union then filed a petition with the PERB to add certain student assistants to some of its bargaining units in 2021, but lawyers on behalf of the CSU system argued in response to the petition, "While there are some Student Assistants who perform jobs similar to those in CSUEU represented bargaining units, the Student Assistants’ primary role is that of a student and not a traditional employee."

“Student work is real work," stated Catherine Hutchinson, President of the CSUEU. "With 20,000 student assistants joining CSUEU’s 16,000 CSU staff members, University management will no longer be able to divide students and staff or exploit student labor to degrade staff jobs. Joining together is a win for students, for staff, and for all Californians who have a stake in the CSU’s mission.”

According to the PERB, this was the first mostly digital election overseen by their organization and following the announcement of the results, the CSU system now has a ten-day window to file paperwork opposing the election.

After that ten-day window closes, PERB will approve the new union as a collective bargaining unit within the CSUEU and new labor negotiations, including pay and benefits, can begin between the groups explain PERB.

Article Topic Follows: California
CSU system
labor group
labor negotiations

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Andrew Gillies

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