CSUs, Teacher's Assistants Approve First Contract
Union and universities agree on first collective bargaining contract
May 19, 2005 4:08 PM
Changes are brewing for the 6,000 graduate students and undergraduate students who are academic student employees working as teaching associates, graduate assistants and instructional assistants in the California State University system.
After seven months of negotiations, the CSU and the union for academic student employees, the California Alliance of Academic Student Employees, have reached a tentative agreement on their first collective bargaining contract.
“Students were getting different wages working the same job at different CSUs,” said Xochitl Lopez, an organizer for the student employees union and graduate student at Sacramento State University.
“Some employees were even getting health benefits, with a contract we will no longer be controlled by the employer.”
The agreement will be voted on May 25, meaning the details on the improved work conditions will be revealed at that time. Lopez said overall, the union, which is affiliated with the United Auto Workers, was bargaining for a pay increase.
“In the end the university was very cooperative, “ Lopez said. “We have made great strides and it is empowering that we have a democratic say in our work conditions.”
In a statement released to the press, CSU Assistant Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Sam Strafaci agreed the bargaining went smoothly with the union.
“We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement for the first contract with the UAW,” Strafaci said. “Initial contract bargaining is very difficult and the agreement is an indication that the parties took their work seriously.
“Both parties were willing to be creative and make the compromise necessary to reach agreement in a constructive and professional manner. I am looking forward to working with the union leadership during the term of this contract.”
SF State graduate student Christopher Fisher works as a graduate assistant for the biology department. Earning $12 an hour, Fisher manages grades, does prep work for lectures and is a co-instructor for two biology courses. On top of his work for the biology department he has taken out student loans and works a part-time retail job to cover his rent and living costs.
“I have never been part of a union but having health insurance would be incredible,” said Fisher. “I can’t cover health insurance with the income I am making right now.”
In January 2004, the CSU students working as academic employees officially joined the union. Fisher said he feels that his work as a graduate assistant has been an amazing learning experience, but he is concerned about how his job will be affected in the future now that he is part of a union.
“I am concerned that people in leadership positions will be too greedy and ask for too much from the CSU system,” said Fisher. “I am also concerned about everyone’s need being genuinely represented by the CAASE/UAW.”
The California Alliance of Academic Student Employees and United Auto Workers represents more than 26,000 academic student employees nationally, including more than 12,000 in the University of California system.
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