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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 assistants join employee union in historic vote

The decision will make the California State University Employees Union the largest undergraduate student workers union in history
Sean Young
Volunteer organizer Ashley See (left) and San Francisco State University student assistant Becca Wilson (right) embrace following the results of the California State University Student Assistant union election via electronic ballot at a watch party in Burk Hall on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Sean Young / Golden Gate Xpress)

The Sacramento Public Employment Relations Board’s regional office announced Friday morning that student assistants are joining the California State University Employees Union in a landmark decision.

The election, held electronically by the American Arbitration Association, counted 7,252 ballots, with 7,050 votes in favor of union representation and approximately 200 votes against. The votes counted exceeded the minimum of 3,640, with 97% voting for a union.

The CSUEU is local chapter 2579 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly two million service workers across Canada and the United States.

“Student workers, who keep CSU campuses running, must have a strong and united voice,” said SEIU President Mary Kay to Zoom participants watching the announcement of the results. “By joining together in this union, CSU student assistants are breaking barriers.”

The CSUEU currently represents approximately 16,000 support staff that maintain the academics and operations of the CSU system. The union will include student assistants, non-citizen students, bridge student assistants and work-study student assistants.

SFSU student assistant Becca Wilson slices a piece of celebratory cake following the results of the CSU Student Assistant union election at a watch party in Burk Hall on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Sean Young / Golden Gate Xpress) (Sean Young)

Members of the student workers’ organizing team at San Francisco State University hosted a union election watch party in Burk Hall to see the results live on Zoom. The online meeting was attended by participants from multiple CSU campuses, including CSU Sacramento, CSU Chico, CSU Long Beach and CSU Fresno.

According to a statement from the CSU, bargaining with the CSUEU’s student assistants will begin in the near future. Student assistant classification will maintain current standards and requirements until a final agreement is reached. 

“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.

Elyssa Mariscal, a fourth-year student, attended the event on a whim after seeing a watch party flier on campus and was pleased to witness the results in real-time.

“It’s super important for them to have a union — especially because the school system prides themselves in doing so much for the students,” Mariscal said. “Why aren’t [they] doing more for the student workers?”

Student assistants will campaign for sick pay, better wages, more hours and free parking. 

Becca Wilson, a campus tour guide, has only been involved with the campaign for a month but said she cares deeply about the working conditions of student assistants.

“As a tour guide, we’re supposed to advertise the best things about the school,” Wilson said. “When I want students to come, I want them to have the best experience, including working here.” 

Noah Giddens, a student assistant at the registrar’s office, transferred to SFSU last semester and looks forward to the union’s potentially nationwide impact. 

“This sets a new precedent — that you can use any electronic voting to form unions,” Giddens said. 

Student assistants are now getting proper recognition for the work they do on campus, according to Mariscal.

“This is literally a historical moment,” Mariscal said. “It doesn’t seem overwhelming, but the result is amazing.” 

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About the Contributors
Gabriela Calvillo Alvarez
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. 
Sean Young
Sean Young, Campus Editor
Sean Young (he/him) is the campus editor for Golden Gate Xpress. He is a journalism major with a minor in California Studies. Originally from the small town of Sebastopol, Sean now lives in San Francisco. Before transferring to SF State, Sean studied journalism at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he was editor-in-chief of the college's student publication The Oak Leaf News. In his spare time, Sean can be found watching sports, listening to his vinyl record collection and reading the latest news from The New York Times.

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