California State University Student Assistants Vote to Unionize

Student assistants across the California State University system voted to unionize, forming the largest union of undergraduate student workers in the country.
portrait of Margaret Attridge
Margaret Attridge
Read Full Bio


Margaret Attridge is a news reporter for BestColleges focusing on higher education news stories in California. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in May 2022 with a BA in journalism and government and politics....
Published on February 23, 2024
Edited by
portrait of Cameren Boatner
Cameren Boatner
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Cameren Boatner is a senior news editor at BestColleges. She's a Society of Professional Journalists award winner for her coverage of race, minorities, and Title IX. You can find her work in South Florida Gay News, MSN Money,, the Student Pr...
Learn more about our editorial process
Image Credit: Scott Varley / Digital First Media / Torrance Daily Breeze / Getty Images
  • Student assistants across the California State University system voted to join the university's employee union.
  • There are an estimated 20,000 undergraduate workers across all 23 CSU campuses, making this the largest union of undergraduate student workers in the country.
  • The vote passed with 97% approval.

An estimated 20,000 student assistants across the California State University (CSU) system will form the largest union of undergraduate student workers in the country.

The student assistants voted to join the CSU Employees Union (CSUEU/SEIU Local 2579), which represents an estimated 16,000 CSU staff across all 23 campuses.

The vote took place from Jan. 24 to Feb. 22 and passed with 97% support.

"Standing strong, together in our union, student assistants are ready to ensure the nation’s largest and most diverse university system lives up to its promise of opportunity and equity; that’s what’s possible now that we’ve won our seat at the CSU’s decision-making table," Colin Culver, a student assistant from San Diego State University, said in a press release.

“The CSU has a long history of providing on-campus jobs to students through student assistant positions, which give our students the opportunity to gain valuable work experience while they pursue their degrees," CSU Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Leora Freedman said in a Feb. 23 statement.

"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."​

Student assistants submitted a petition for a union election in April 2023. In October, the California Public Employment Relations Board certified that the student assistants met the threshold for a “showing of interest."

According to CSUEU, most student assistants make minimum wage and have no sick time or holiday pay. They say the university has shifted work traditionally done by union staff onto student assistants, who are paid less, have fewer benefits, and have their hours capped at 20 per week.

Initial demands of the union include higher pay, parking benefits, paid sick time, and holiday pay.

"We all voted yes for better pay, sick time, and more hours,” Gem Gutierrez, a student assistant at Sacramento State said in the press release. “Many of us will only be here for four years but we know that this isn’t just for us – this is for every student worker who comes after us.”

The vote comes after CSU faculty reached an agreement with the administration just one day into their planned five-day systemwide strike. The agreement included increasing salaries, raising the minimum salary for the lowest-paid faculty, increasing paid parental leave weeks, and mandating a union representative for interactions between faculty and police.

Additionally, last December, academic student employees, which include teaching associates, graduate assistants, tutors, graders, and supplemental instruction leaders, reached an agreement with the CSU on the same day their contract was set to expire.

The new contract included salary increases, changes to paid and sick leave, and expanded paid sick leave.