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California State University student assistants file petitions for their own union

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KION-TV)- UPDATE ON APRIL 17, 2023 AT 12:19 PM- Student assistants in the California State University have officially filed petitions on Monday morning to form a union.

The California State University Employees Union said that this will be the largest union of undergraduate student workers in the country.

Student assistants gathered at California Public Employment Relations Board to deliver more than 400 filings representing the signatures of students from all 23 campuses in the CSU system.

Student assistant workers perform non-academic work such as working at reception desks at campus buildings, working at student resource centers and and helping run campus laboratories.

During a press conference that took place on Monday, student assistants want higher wages, more work hours and paid time off for sickness among other things.

Cameron Macedonio who is a student assistant at Cal State Fullerton says that California State University officals have low balled student assistant workers

"Why do you expect students to perform well at school and perform well at work with little to no compensation," Macedonio said. "You also expect us to elevate your profits and be there when we are sick so we cannot get paid."

Grayce Honsa who is a student at San Diego State University said that it is time for student workers to unionize and be at the bargaining table.

"We want access to affordable healthcare, we want to work free of harassment," Honsa said. "We want the CSU to let us vote and form a union.”

The student assistants were joined by California State University Employees Union President Catherine Hutchinson and California District 20 Assemblymember Liz Ortega.

"Student assistants and staff employees know the University is trying to keep wages low for everyone by having students do CSUEU members’ work," Hutchinson said. "Keep in mind: Their employer is a public university charged with opening doors for Californians of limited means through education.”

We did reach out to the California University System for a statement about the student assistants organizing a union. Amy Bentley-Smith who is the interim director for the strategic communications and public affairs for the CSU Office of the Chancellor sent in a statement.

"The California State University is not involved in this organizing effort but acknowledges all workers’ rights to organize. In the event student employees are formally recognized by the California Public Employment Relations Board, we look forward to engaging with them as we do with all of our other union partners," Bentley-Smith said in a statement.

The California Public Employment Relations Board will now have to schedule a vote for all student assistants who are eligible to join the union. Organizers said that if majority of the board votes in favor then the student workers will be begin bargaining with the California State University officials for a contract.

This comes as University of California graduate student workers ratified a deal with the UC system after they ended a 40 day strike for better wages in late 2022.

California State University student assistants to launch largest non-academic organizing effort

On Monday morning, California State University student assistants will be announcing a major step to unionize throughout the 23 CSU campuses.

Students will be joined by leaders of the CSU Employees Union, (SEIU Local 2579), the California Faculty Association on their efforts to form a union during a online press conference at 11 a.m.

Officials said that student assistants are fighting for better working conditions and wages that allow them to support themselves and their educational goals.

According to the student union organizers California State University has increasingly hired Student Assistants in lieu of qualified union members to keep wages low for everyone.

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Derrick Ow

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