In September, as 1,600 unionized student assistants across the California State University system lose their jobs due to state budget cuts to higher education, CSU East Bay’s student assistants will be exempt.
California spent $13.4 million last year on student assistant salaries, with each student earning about $8,500 per year, according to an Associated Press report from July. Gov. Jerry Brown hopes this cut will alleviate a $15.7 billion budget deficit.
About 1,600 student assistants in schools with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representation, will lose their jobs due to this “cost-cutting” deal. A report from the Sacramento Bee in July explained 95,000 student assistants represented by SEIU will be required to take 12 furlough days from Sept. 1 to June 30 so as to not cut payroll for student assistants.
Although this budget cut will have such an impact on SEIU-represented student employees, student assistants at CSUEB will not have to worry about their positions being taken away from them because CSUEB students are not represented by a union, as affirmed by Vice President of Administration and Financial Affairs, Brad Wells.
“SEIU does not represent student employees at CSUEB, which means we don’t have the same challenges,” said Wells. According to Wells, CSUEB is actually looking to hire more student workers as opposed to other universities affected by these cuts.
Students at Sacramento State University, for example, are represented by SEIU and the University Enterprises Inc. (UEI), which creates and manages programs, along with having career services to certain university campuses. “We let our students know about the issue that the deal has presented to us,” said Kimberly Nava, director of news services at Sacramento State University. “We also have worked with our career center and other universities in the community who had been affected.”
Brand new positions in the custodial department at CSUEB have been created to provide students with jobs related to event setup. Associated Students Inc. (ASI) department has even provided students a chance to work in internship positions at the Recreation and Wellness Center (RAW).
“We have 149 employees working in our department and 120 of those workers are student employees,” said ASI director Randy Saffold. “We are looking to reduce professional staff and expansion positions in order to hire more student workers, since this is a student-run organization.”
Saffold explains, last year the department spent about $1.5 million on employee salaries and this year the department is looking at a $2.2 million budget for all their workers.
At a time when the state budget affects universities more and more, state student assistants seem to be an easy target because they are not covered by union agreements, receive no benefits and have no protection, according to the Sacramento Bee.
As the state budget for universities continues to diminish, there is the question of whether or not student workers at CSUEB need some kind of union representation even though it might lead to losing their positions.
Kevin Shields, a student at CSUEB and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), explains a union is more than necessary for students.
“When students have opposing interests from their employer, they would have someone who can fight for their interests,” said Shields. “But the power is up to students as far as what they are willing to do and sacrifice and at what ends to win their demands.”
“We make sure that student assistants’ responsibilities are explained in such great detail, that a union is not necessary for them,” said Wells.
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, August 30th, 2012 at 11:48 am.