San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

CSU student assistants vote to form one of the nation’s largest union

Student assistants in the California State University Employees Union prepare for negotiations for improved working conditions
Isabella Biunno
Hepner Hall is shown on San Diego State University’s campus on April 1, 2023

On Feb. 23, California State University (CSU) student assistants voted to form one of the largest undergraduate student unions in the United States.

A total of 7,252 student workers voted electronically, resulting in 7,050 voting “yes” to joining the California State University Employees Union (CSUEU).

“I was super thrilled with the voting results, honestly,” said Colin Culver, a fourth-year political science major and student assistant. “I can comfortably say that we won with a big margin. 7,050 ‘yes’ voters with a 97% ‘yes’ rate — that’s sending a message.”

As they begin preparing for contract negotiations, Culver and other members of the union are currently in the process of reaching out to other student assistants across CSU campuses to see what their priorities are. 

According to Culver, some common concerns include sick time, more hours, better pay and affordable parking.

“Once that survey wraps up, we’re going to start moving into our draft proposal,” Culver said. “We’re hoping that we can get this done as soon as possible, and it honestly depends on how quickly the CSU is willing to work with us and is willing to step up and finally live through its mission of being an institution of economic mobility.”

Student workers at most CSU campuses do not receive any sick time or holiday pay and make minimum wage. Some also have their hours capped off at 20 hours per week.

“Part-time workers in California are guaranteed five days of paid sick time that can accumulate over the course of the year,” Culver said. “As student assistants, the CSU claims we’re exempt from that and I don’t think that’s okay.”

 According to Culver, in some instances, student assistants work side by side with full-time staff and do the same work but get paid less per week.

“Student work is real work,” Catherine Hutchinson, president of CSUEU said in a press release. “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.”

Before joining, student workers approached staff members from CSUEU for help after witnessing them get a contract ratified that provided improvements to their working conditions. After agreeing, they supported student assistants by using their positions and abilities to help represent them.

“Because student assistant is such a rotating role, the people that started it have come and gone but they stayed pushing forward,” Culver said. “Student assistants have stayed at the helm of the movement making sure that we are (at) the forefront of who’s working on who’s pushing for this.”

Until negotiations begin and an agreement is reached between the student workers of CSUEU and CSU, their working conditions and contracts are to remain the same. According to Culver, his only concern is how the CSU will collaborate with them.

“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,” said Leora Freedman, CSU vice chancellor for Human Resources, in a statement on the CSU website.

Culver encourages student assistants who have helped organize and voted “yes” to stay engaged as the process moves forward because they are the ones who will have the power in the upcoming bargaining session.

“I’m super excited to see this bargaining process through and I’m really hoping that we can get a good contract as soon as possible,” Culver said. “Student assistants have been fighting for this for years now and it’s finally time for the CSU to step up.”

The CSUEU is currently waiting to finish their surveys so they can begin working on drafting their proposal. When that is finalized, they will move forward to a bargaining session with the CSU and begin negotiating.

About the Contributor
Isabella Biunno
Isabella Biunno, '24-25 Managing Editor, '23-24 Photo Editor
Isabella Biunno (she/her/hers) is a photographer for The Daily Aztec. She is originally from Las Vegas, Nevada where she was a part of yearbook and publications for nearly six years. She is a first-year Psychology major with an emphasis in neuroscience, and she plans to go to graduate school for Occupational Therapy. She loves photography, editing, and creating, and she can’t wait to continue shooting content for the DA. One thing she is passionate about outside of photojournalism is being involved in the disability/Autism community. She is a part of SDSU’s Adapted Athletics club, and she worked as an Instructor at a company back home called Inclusion Fusion where she was able to work with people with disabilities. Although her career-related passions fall in the healthcare field, she enjoys taking pictures and covering photo events just as much. She looks forward to expanding her experience as a photographer as well as capturing some astounding shots this year.