Sacramento Valley Union Labor Bulletin

Owned and Published by the Sacramento Central Labor Council and the Sacramento-Sierra’s Building & Construction Trades Council, official councils of the AFL-CIO


Undergraduate workers at Cal State vote to unionize

By Sheri Williams

Undergraduate student workers at California State University voted recently to form a union, creating the largest union of young university employees in the country.

The union will cover more than 20,000 student employees across the state system, who currently work as student assistants, work-study assistants and other roles supporting classroom teaching – all while completing their own education.

At many campuses, student assistants run their own sections, or break-out sessions of larger classes, where they teach and reinforce concepts. Many also grade tests, hold office hours and perform other teaching duties.

The newly-unionized staff will become part of CSUEU/SEIU Local 2579.

“Student workers, who keep CSU campuses running, must have a strong and united voice,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry after the announcement. “By joining together in this union, CSU student assistants are breaking barriers.”

“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,” said Catherine Hutchinson, president of CSUEU. “Joining together is a win for students, for staff, and for all Californians who have a stake in the CSU’s mission.”

More than 7,000 workers voted in the recent election and of those, 97% voted in favor of forming the union.

Last April, union organizers collected the necessary signatures to form the union and submitted the petition to the state. With their drive approved, student organizers set about educating their 20,000 peers across the university’s 23 campuses.

At issue was pay and working conditions. Most student assistants make $16.25 an hour and have their work hours capped at 20 per week, though many put in more time to finish the expected duties.

They don’t receive sick or paid leave, and have additional work out-of-pocket expenses such as parking, which can be expensive and difficult to find around the campuses.

“This is for all of us and for all of our futures,” said student assistant Cameron Macedonio, to media after the vote results were announced. “Student assistants were increasingly fed up with the CSU administration’s treatment of us. They undervalue us. On one hand, they act as if we’re dispensable, but on the other hand, they expect us to do the work of full-time staff but for minimum wages and no benefits.”

The unionization of student workers at Cal State campuses represents the latest win for young workers across the U.S. who are unionizing. Union membership has been increasing after years of being flat, in many cases driven by younger workers.

“GenZ workers are claiming their seat at the table for fair wages and respect,” SEIU said on social media after the vote.