Less than a day before student workers were set to strike because of what they considered to be unfair working conditions, the California Alliance of Academic Student Employees/United Auto Workers and the California State University system reached a last-minute tentative bargaining agreement May 11.
Specifics of the agreement, the first such contract between the two parties, will not be released until the CAASE/UAW and the CSU Board of Trustees individually ratify the agreement.
“We’re happy with the agreement, (and) we feel it’s a good contract,” said CSU Spokesperson Clara Potes-Fellow, who said she feels both sides were satisfied with the new agreement, which could potentially be in place for three years.
Six thousand ASEs from across all 23 CSU campuses planned to go on strike May 12 if an agreement could not be reached. Had the strike occurred and lasted through CSUN’s finals week, scheduling problems could have potentially occurred, as many ASEs work as teaching associates, tutors and instructional student assistants, and are heavily involved in administering and grading examinations.
According to Xochitl Lopez, CAASE/UAW spokesperson and CSU Sacramento graduate student, prior to the tentative agreement, the main grievances of the ASEs dealt with poor wages, long hours, appointment rights and health benefits.
Lopez also said there “hasn’t been an across-the-board (pay) raise (for ASEs) since 1991,” and that the average monthly salary for a student employee is $520 per month, which is half of what University of California student employees are paid.
“I’m excited about (the agreement),” said David Black, a graduate student assistant specializing in development and training for student clubs and organizations. “It’s good that the student voices are heard, and that the (CSU) reacts to the needs of (its) students.”
Black, who works between 15 and 20 hours per week, said he feels that he and the other ASEs have deserved better treatment for a long time.
“I think (that graduate) students(…)deserve more pay because they’re doing professional-level work.”
Without a new contract, the CSUs would continue to have unilateral power over all terms of the student workers’ employment, including payment, hours and benefits. Collective bargaining allowed for representatives from both the CSU and the CAASE/UAW to reach a tentative agreement that is said to be satisfactory for both parties.
The CAASE/UAW represents over 26,000 UAWs across the country, including over 12,000 at UCs. Other states with ASE unions include Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, New Jersey, Illinois and Rhode Island.