CPP student workers gain approval of union vote

By Victoria Mejicanos and Jose Hernandez, Oct. 16, 2023

California State University student workers received the right to hold a union election after submitting over 8,500 union cards to the Public Employee Relations Board after a prolonged year of campaigning. Over 19,300 students will soon vote on the formation of a union.

According to Cal Matters, if passed, students will have formed one of the largest student worker unions in United States history, and double the size of the California State University Employees Union which currently supports 16,000 staff across the CSU.

If a union is authorized, the first order of business for CPP student organizer Tori Umeda is to achieve fair pay.

Umeda shared that the union becoming officially recognized is a step towards better treatment for current and future student workers. She emphasized the importance of fair pay and better treatment of student workers from their supervisors.

She mentioned leaving a previous position because she felt that she was being overworked, given less working hours and was underpaid. Additionally, she stated that she felt her supervisor often “took credit” for employee’s work. This motivated her to eventually find a new position and work towards a better working environment.

Student workers protesting in front of CPP Library | Victoria Mejicanos

“I realized I have a voice here as a student assistant,” Umeda said. “I want to see change and want the same for other students,”

She participated in several rallies this past summer and connected with other CSU students as a result,

“This is what we’ve been fighting for a long time and for the first time ever, we actually have a say in how we want to work, be treated and how to pave the paths for our future,” said Umeda.

A student workers union would not only allow students to bargain for higher pay, but also earn more weekly-working hours and sick leave. Currently, students are capped at a total of 20 hours per week. Maggie Zuniga, who works at the Learning Resource Center and Kellogg West Conference Center & Hotel, stated the hour limit puts a financial strain on students who rely on their on-campus jobs to pay bills and for student materials.

“We’re worrying about paying bills, having enough to eat or even buying textbooks for class,” Zuniga said. “When it’s a bad work environment for students, it also takes a toll on them affecting their ability to learn.”

Zuniga shared that she picked up two jobs “to make ends meet” and has worked weekend graveyard shifts at the hotel, which at times has taken a toll on her learning experience.

Although she has positive experiences with supervisors, and works the hours needed, she noted she felt compelled to join the campaigning efforts after being inspired by the faculty union at CPP.

“Realizing my teachers were members of a union allowed me to believe students are human and deserve equality in their pay and treatment at work,” Zuniga said. “I believe in our purpose and cause and encourage all student workers to join the movement and be a part of the first step for change.”

Student workers also  With over 20,000 student workers on campus, emphasizing the importance of a healthy working environment.

“I feel we were looked down upon as workers and (supervisors were) taking the credit for what us as workers and employees were doing rather than a specific person,” said Umeda.

Zuniga shared similar sentiments.

“I have both friends on campus and off campus that aren’t treated fairly,” Zuniga said. “They’re doing work outside of their job description.”

Umeda stated that although student workers have been campaigning for more than a year, the path to a student union has only begun. Sharing her excitement for the possibility of forming a union.

“We may be seen as young and inexperienced, but we’re adults and we should be treated as such,” Umeda said.

She also stated despite the notion that students are young and inexperienced, she recognizes one day student workers will be in positions of power.

Graduate student and student activist Carlos Callejo spoke on the effort it took to get the PERB to allow student workers to vote and how these efforts will continue as the union vote emerges. He describes “a new phase of organizing” where students will promote a “union yes” survey. In this survey, students voluntarily share issues within their working environments. Callejo stated the delays in forming the student union connect to larger issues within the CSU.

“I think we’re seeing right now the CSU really go and harm its student body,” Callejo said. “With the tuition hikes not making progress with union negotiations, so they are not recognizing or trying not to recognize this union, it’s part of a larger trend.”

Callejo also shared what a union would mean to him, and why he believes it is necessary.

“The workers keep CPP operating, not our administrators.”

For further updates regarding the student workers and its unionizing efforts, students can visit its website, or follow its Instagram page.

Feature Image Courtesy of Victoria Mejicanos 


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