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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Student workers start voting to join the CSUEU

Student assistants continue to campaign during the CSUEU election
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Gustavo Hernandez
Maddux Eckerling, a CSUEU-SFSU organizer and first-year student, poses with a CSUEU poster near SFSU’s Fine Arts building on Feb. 2, 2024. (Gustavo Hernandez / Golden Gate Xpress)

Almost 20,000 student assistants are moving forward with voting to join the California State University Employees Union, with three weeks of electronic voting open until Feb. 22.

According to a notice of election from the Public Employment Relations Board, each eligible voter was emailed instructions for placing their ballot on Jan. 24 and voting began the next day. The voting unit includes students who are not U.S. citizens, student assistants, students training on-campus work-study, bridge student assistants and bridge student assistants with work-study jobs.

Student assistants, who are different from teaching and graduate assistants, often fulfill administrative roles akin to work done by CSU employees.

The CSUEU currently represents approximately 16,000 support staff that cover the academics and operations of the CSU, such as information technology, healthcare, and administrative and academic support. It is separate from the California Faculty Association, which represents about 29,000 CSU employees who provide services directly to students, faculty, coaches and librarians.

Last semester, Jonah Tejada, a San Francisco State University alumnus, worked as a student assistant at California State University, Los Angeles.

“It was very different compared to my experience in other student assistant positions,” Tejada said.

This inspired him to vote in the CSUEU election.

Ashley Hanson, a Cal State East Bay health education assistant, has been involved with the campaign since October 2023. Hanson and 11 other organizers canvas at all 23 CSU campuses to inform student assistants about the election and encourage them to vote.

“We don’t want to just win by slim margins,” said Hanson, who covers Cal State East Bay and SFSU. “We want to win in terrifyingly large margins so that as a labor force, students are negotiated with and taken more seriously.”

According to Hanson, each organizer speaks to thousands of people in a day, both virtually and in person. Instead of using an automated system, they send a scripted text message to individuals who fill out a survey.

“We want to push grassroots organizing and go department by department, find as many student workers as we can and help them vote,” said Maddux Eckerling, a first-year student at SFSU.

Eckerling is currently a student assistant in the Jewish Studies department. After seeing the different movements from CSU organizations, he recently joined the campaign as an organizer.

“With all the stuff going on in CFA, with the Teamsters, and seeing the surge of labor rights movements, I realize the amount of power that unions have and how important they are,” Eckerling said.

Eckerling worked two jobs last semester, one as a student assistant and one as a course fellow. When he was sick with COVID-19, he did not receive sick pay –– one thing student assistants will be asking for if a deal is struck after joining the union.

“I lost almost $600,” Eckerling said. “I had to somehow find a way to come up with all this money just so I could pay my rent. No student worker should have to go through that.”

In addition to sick pay, student assistants are campaigning for better wages, more hours and free parking.

10 years ago, Hanson was a student worker in graduate school and recalled the experience of being a student assistant for a public education institution. She empathized with students today struggling with inflation and the cost of living in San Francisco.

“My experience as a student worker, I can’t ignore that,” Hanson said. “Our system works because we have our student assistants. There is only so much that can be done on the department level to compensate, protect and respect them.”

CSUEU’s LA Chapter President Kenneth Castillo also empathized with the student workers’ movement — having been a student worker himself.

“I remember not having sick time or adequate health insurance,” Castillo said. “I’m hoping that student workers are able to have the opportunity to negotiate to have these types of benefits.”

Katie Murphy, CSUEU steward, believes that student workers may be inspired by faculty to join the union.

“If they see a faculty member who they already look up to, and see that individual doing union work, that provides them with a role model,” Murphy said.

“If I say I respect and value my students, that has to come with action,” Hanson said. “When this opportunity came up for me to do something, to change things in a way that genuinely will benefit them, I couldn’t say no.”

Election results will be announced on Feb. 23 at the Sacramento Public Employment Relations Board’s regional office.

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About the Contributors
Gabriela Calvillo Alvarez, Breaking News Editor
Gabriela Calvillo Alvarez (she/they) is breaking news editor for Golden Gate Xpress. She is double majoring in journalism and political science, two passions she holds near to her heart. Growing up in the East Bay, Gabriela graduated from Washington High School, where she wrote and was news editor on the award-winning school newspaper, The Hatchet. She also participated in The Stanford Daily Summer Internship in 2020. During their spare time, Gabriela enjoys going out with friends, attending concerts and learning new things. 
Gustavo Hernandez, Photographer

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