Student employees deserve better benefits


Photo credit: Dongyoung Won

In the past few years, California State University academic student employees have been bargaining with the CSU board of trustees for a better work environment.

It was only recently that an agreement was reached between the CSU system and the union workers.

Looking at the living conditions of some student employees reveals that they are treated unfairly and this agreement is necessary.

The union workers involved are teaching assistants, graduate assistants and instructional student assistants who have the dual roles of being both workers and students.

These union workers have been fighting for many benefits such as pay raises, tuition waivers, parental leave, protection against all forms of discrimination and improved training. Seeing the role teaching assistants play in our universities, these demands don’t seem to be asking too much.

Most people don’t notice just how important these jobs are to our educational system. These specialized workers help grade, tutor and supervise all students across the 23 CSU campuses.

However, most of these workers don’t seem to get the treatment they deserve or even the treatment that they need to survive. The average salary for a teaching assistant is a meager $ 21,656 a year and Chico’s average salary for teaching assistants is only $30,552. Although they only work part-time hours, academic employees are also students either in undergraduate or graduate school.

This means that they also have tuition costs to worry about. Most of the money that these students make from the university ultimately ends up back in the hands of the university.

Paying tuition, affording living expenses and having school on top of work makes it extremely difficult to work multiple jobs. This ultimately leads to students having to take on worse living conditions and pull out student loans. Around 51 percent of CSU students graduate with debt and one in ten CSU students experience hunger as a result of financial problems.

Teaching assistants play a vital role in a student’s success in the classroom, so shouldn’t we care about the success of the assistant? Higher wages and a larger budget for this category of workers seems to be a necessary investment.

Thankfully an agreement on a contract was reached not too long ago between the union workers and the CSU system, which includes improved wages, improved workload conditions and improved gender equality.

In order to help these union workers receive these higher wages, they are asking people to help steer government funding towards education. With the election approaching, the union of academic student employees, UAW 4123, is asking people to pay specific attention to proposition 55 on the ballot.

Proposition 55 is the income tax increase initiative, which extends a tax hike from 2012 onto people making more than $250,000 a year. What’s important to note is that this proposition won’t raise any taxes and all these tax dollars would end up going towards education. A vote “yes” on the ballot extends the tax increase and a vote “no” opposes extending the tax increase, so remember this when voting on Nov. 8.

CSU academic student employees stand alongside faculty employees as well as others in fighting for more focus from our government on education. Academic student employees may only work part-time hours, but dealing with both work and school is a lot to handle and with the role they play in our education system, it’s important that they are treated fairly.

Jeff Guzman can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.