As more students are employed on campus through the CSU system, there has been more push for them to unionize.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the California State University Employees Union (CSUUE) Noted that there was a decrease in the number of union staff employees, but an increase in paid student assistants.
While advertising as a great work experience for students, there are issues that student workers may not be aware of.
CSUEU’s Emily Hake explained that students perform the same level of work as union employees while being paid minimum wage and without union benefits. An unfair practice charge was filed against CSU in response.
Comment has been requested from the CSU Chancellor’s Office regarding the push for student unions.
The Head of Public Affairs Office of the Chancellor of the CSU, Hazel Kelly, said: “We are not aware of any specific movement for the CSU student employees unionize, but given the groundswell observed in other industries, it would make sense for employees and union representatives to be able to engage in conversations.
After survey student workers, CSUEU has found that most students work second jobs to help pay for household needs above tuition.
Project rebound Student assistant Alexis Aldaco (junior, psychology/business administration) shared that she is currently working two side jobs in addition to her university job and six courses this semester.
Some of his duties as a student assistant include helping students to Rebound integrated project and financial aid to students, course selection and the role of mentor for about 4 to 8 students.
Employed students can only work 20 hours a week and are paid minimum wage.
“It’s hard because we’re paid so little…it’s not enough to live on,” says Aldaco.
Aldaco explained that half of his college paycheck goes to pay for gas and the rest of his income goes to pay for food, insurance and other bills.
Hake later explained that from the CSU’s perspective, it is cheaper to pay two students minimum wage than to pay one union employee.
“We call it exploitation because it is,” says Hake.
Another issue is that when students mention their CSU’s HR department as a reference on their resume, some students have found that HR does not verify their employment time.
“Students rely on these jobs,” says Angel Rivera of United Students Against Sweatshops (United States), “without them [the students]…schools would pretty much fail.
By having a union representative, student workers have a place at the bargaining table to negotiate higher wages, holidays and benefits benefits such as health care and welfare.
“[It] helps them have someone to support them,” says Rivera.
The groups encourage students to continue sharing their work experience to bring union representation closer.