Most student assistants make minimum wage or only slightly more. Many face food insecurity, housing insecurity, homelessness, debt, and more. Some work a second job on top of a full time course load just to get by. Student assistants do not get benefits – no paid sick time, vacation, healthcare. Workplace issues are numerous. The collective voice and bargaining power of a union will return the balance of power for Student Assistants.
On April 17, 2023, 4,200 Student Assistants filed with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) for a union election. Now, to officially become recognized as a union, California state legislators and the CSU must let the Student Workers vote as soon as possible. This will be the largest undergraduate student worker union election in history!
The main reasons to join a union are higher pay, better benefits and a voice on the job. As a union member, you have a collective voice regarding things such as: pay and wages; work hours, benefits (including but not limited to: retirement plans, health insurance, vacation and sick leave, and tuition reimbursement); workplace health and safety; and ways to balance work and family.
Unions work like a democracy. They hold elections for officers who make decisions on behalf of members, giving workers more power on the job. A local union is a locally-based group of workers with a charter from a national or international union such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) or United Auto Workers (UAW). A local may include workers from the same company or region. It may also have workers from the same business sector, employed by different companies.
Forming a union enables staff and student workers to negotiate collectively for better terms of employment, using democratic processes to ensure that the interests of all are represented. A union contract will establish a floor for what constitutes fair treatment and compensation, not a ceiling. At present, there is a ceiling, but no floor.
Once their union is formally recognized, Student Assistants can determine how it will operate. CSUEU is member-led, meaning the members themselves elect their own member leaders and make decisions about their workplace democratically.
No Student Assistant will pay union dues until their union has been formally recognized, AND they have voted to ratify a contract. Student Assistants will not pay union dues until they have voted yes on a contract that establishes fair treatment, wages, and benefits. CSUEU members just voted to pay 1.2% of their pre-tax salary in dues (effective August 2023) and receive a comprehensive, competitive benefits package. Union membership doesn’t cost, it pays!