New union forms for on-campus student workers at CSUs


Eric Martinez

Student oncampus employees unionize across CSU campuses, including Fresno State.

By Sanai James, Reporter

Student workers of Fresno State are fighting to create a student workers union that will defend their rights as employees on campus.

 The CSU Student Workers Union is a collection of student workers advocating for better pay, benefits and working conditions. 

During the pandemic, members of the California State University Employees Union (CSUEU) saw that employment rates were decreasing, as staff were laid off or opted for early retirement. 

The number of student staff members doubled, with students mostly working minimum wage, with a maximum of 20 hours per week. Campuses benefit from hiring students because they don’t receive benefits and their pay is cheaper.

“A lot of [student workers] share with me that they really love their jobs, but this is a systemic issue that’s coming all the way from the CSUwide level,” said Emily Hoke, an organizer with the CSUEU. 

Student unionization is the act of organizing student workers to become members of a labor union. It advocates for a more liveable wage, external benefits, protects the rights of workers and ensures they have a voice in the workplace, she said.  

A few students express that they enjoy their jobs and see it as a positive environment and are in full support of student workers joining a union. 

“My supervisors are really lenient. She helped me with some past issues and showed me a lot of leeway,” said Miguel Romero, a first-year Criminology major, who works as a runner at The Bucket. 

All staff and faculty positions are represented by unions, except for student workers and paid assistants. Student workers are critical in many departments throughout Fresno State. Yet, these workers don’t get much recognition at a university wide level. 

Branden Hunter, a fourth-year Biology major, has worked at the Undergraduate Degree Evaluation Office since his first year at Fresno State. He became aware of the need for a student workers union after Hoke and another union representative came and spoke with him about their mission. 

They also informed students that this isn’t a local issue and students on other campuses are vying for similar solutions. For example, in 2022, students on University of California campuses started a strike and challenged the university’s policies regarding student wages, benefits and hours. 

Regardless, some benefits of being a student worker include being off on weekends, flexibility to accommodate their class schedule and convenience of the job being on campus.

Hunter explained that many students use those reasons as an incentive to continue being a student worker. However, their wage doesn’t completely cover all their expenses and many of them work multiple jobs to fund their expenses and tuition.

“It takes away focus from their education,” Hunter said. 

The act of creating a union is legal and members are protected under law from employers who might want to retaliate. 

Hoke mentioned that a student workers union at Fresno State would be backed financially and legally by the CSUEU.

“It’s all backed by a union that, No. 1,  has a presence on campus and, No. 2, kind of the whims and the ‘clout’ per se that already exists,” Hoke said. 

After the UC Student strike, it was only a matter of time before student workers across CSU campuses fought for their rights too, supporters say. 

With enough support and signatures, the next steps can be taken, such as getting student workers union cards. This indicates the employee’s desire to be represented by the union.