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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Student assistants vote on unionizing with CSUEU

After the union is formed, steps will be taken for student employees to receive higher wages, affordable parking and public transportation incentives, among other benefits
The Bell Memorial Union on Chico State campus. Taken on July 25, 2018 by Jason Halley/University Photographer/CSU Chico

A vote commenced across all California State University campuses on Thursday, Jan. 25 for student assistants to form their union with the California State University Employee Union. The union is aiming to improve working conditions for student employees.

Students who have been employed on a CSU campus since May 2023 are eligible to vote to form the union. 

After the union is formed, steps will be taken for student employees to receive higher wages, affordable parking and public transportation incentives, comfortable working environments, paid sick days and more adequate workforce training.

Two student assistants holding signs advocating for the union vote. Courtesy: California State University Employee Union

Many students, like student assistant Yourchelle Lee, are advocating for higher wages so that they can cover financial responsibilities. Lee has been an employee at Chico State’s WellCat Health Center pharmacy for two years and said that she and her coworkers are responsible for car payments, bills and rent but are not receiving sufficient pay to cover them.

Lee heard about the vote from a Sacramento State student at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. She started attending meetings and raising awareness about the vote through phone banking, in which CSU employees are reached electronically in an attempt to gain signatures.

The long process of forming the union began about a year ago, CSUEU spokesperson Khanh Weinberg said, and this is the largest group of undergraduate non-academic student workers coming together to form a union in the U.S.

“It’s an election among the student assistant population to vote whether or not to have the CSUE represent them,” Weinberg said.

When the CSUEU was forming, the union needed to collect signatures to submit  to the state union board. 

Thousands of signatures were received, each representing a union card, and the state union board decided that the CSUEU had a show of interest. This established that the CSUEU could hold an election.

If the vote is successful and they get to form the union, a bargaining team will be elected to meet with employers and work out the first contract to negotiate pay, working conditions and more, Weinberg said.

Three San Diego State University student assistants holding signs advocating for fair wages, sick time, and affordable parking. Courtesy: California State University Employee Union

The voting will work toward ensuring higher wages, which is crucial for students who pay rent and other expenses like Joshua Kyeyune, the Student Alternative Transportation Coordinator. He has been working in Facilities Management and Services at Chico State for over a year.

“We have a lot of students across the state CSU system that would like to get better wages, benefits, reduce cost on parking passes, and that number has been growing,” Kyeyune said.

Kyeyune and Lee have been working toward increasing the number of Chico State student assistants who attend the monthly statewide CSUEU meetings and participate in the vote.

“From the meetings that I’ve been to, I don’t see a lot of Chico State students,” Lee said.

Lee encourages students to attend meetings and check their emails for electronic ballots so that they can participate in the vote.

CSU respects this vote and the right for student assistants to unionize, said Amy Bentley-Smith, director of strategic communications and public affairs at the CSU Chancellor’s Office.

“Should student assistants elect to unionize, the CSU looks forward to engaging with them as we do with our other union partners,” Bentley-Smith said.

Grace Stark can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Grace Stark, News Editor
Grace Stark is a second-year majoring in journalism, news. She is from Loomis, a small town outside of Sacramento. This is her second semester on The Orion and she is excited to pursue her interests in writing and reporting as the news editor. Outside of school, Grace enjoys thrifting, reading, drawing and spending time with friends. She also has a small business online called Rings by Grace where she sells handmade spoon rings.

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