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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Opinion: Student workers should unionize

Student+workers+union+illustration
Student workers union illustration

Texas State has tens of thousands of undergraduate students, and a significant number of those students work on campus. From the cafeterias to the front desks to the dorms, student workers help to keep the university running.
Workers across the nation show an increased interest in forming unions in their workplace, with a 53% increase in election petitions filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in 2022 and with the current president promising to be “the most pro-union president in presidential history.” Student workers should consider the benefits that unionization could bring.
Working on campus can be invaluable: on-campus jobs take student schedules into account and are comfortably located. In addition, working on campus allows students to offset the cost of their education more conveniently than if they worked off campus.
Students are proven to benefit from working while in school. Studies have shown that students who work 15-20 hours a week have the best college results. The university benefits from having a large pool of candidates to choose from who can work on campus. More importantly, the university would only exist with the students who work hard to ensure that the university can operate. Working on campus is undeniably beneficial for everyone.
“Student workers are at the forefront of recruiting students,” Ánh Adams, a history and geography senior who is a student worker in the English Department, said. “They work at the welcome center, actively bringing new students to the university by giving tours.”
Student workers are adults, and their labor should not be discouraged by their status as undergraduates, especially when they provide essential services. Unfortunately, there are times when the university would prefer to treat them not as such.
Student workers are supposed to be “students first,” trivializing their role as employees and signaling that the work they do for the university is less important than the full-time staff. At the same time, their work is held to the same standards that any business would expect of their workers, often to the detriment of their academic careers.
In matters of respect, they are students. In terms of responsibility, they are employees. This leads to a working environment in which administrators often alternate between holding students to unreasonable standards and talking down to students as though they are not adults.
Workers should not have to trust that their employers will always have their best interests at heart. Every student hopes and expects that the university is acting with their best interests in mind, but they should still be able to speak up if they believe that the university does not.
A union would primarily exist to allow student employees to voice their concerns and opinions in a way that the university could choose to ignore if they were untrue. This relationship would benefit both students and the administration, as they could work with the union to better serve the needs of the students.
As long as the administration holds all the power in the relationship, they can take away every benefit they give. Resident assistants saw this first-hand with the recent overcrowding on campus. Many RAs were issued roommates unilaterally with minimal compensation. Although many student workers have a positive relationship with their managers, others point to mismanagement and a pervasive lack of respect that makes it difficult for them to work.
Franchesca Jennings, a public relations junior who worked at the Office of Disability Services, pointed out that students are often put in a difficult situation by low pay, especially when participating in the work-study program.
“They give us appreciation verbally, but I just don’t think it’s enough,” Jennings said. “I might say ‘I appreciate you,’ but it doesn’t change the fact that you can’t afford books for your class.”
In these scenarios, a union could highlight these issues, advocate for its members and ensure that their voices are not ignored or suppressed.
The unfortunate truth is that in Texas, employees of public institutions are locked out of many of the benefits of unionization. Texas is a right-to-work state, meaning that participation in a union is not grounds for termination, and the university cannot punish employees for organizing. However, unions can still provide other benefits, like support in disciplinary hearings and an ability to voice complaints drowned out if made by individuals.
Student workers, possibly more than any other students, are fully invested in the university’s success and in furthering its vision. A union would not exist in opposition to the university. It would help to hold the university accountable and allow for an honest relationship between administrators and student workers.
For student workers interested in unionization, the question becomes how to implement it. One option is the Texas State Employees Union, which represents employees of the state of Texas. At the University of Texas, members have been working to build support for House Bill 202, legislation that would raise salaries and hourly pay for all state employees.
It is also possible for student workers at Texas State to form their union, and organizing to do so is a protected right according to both the state of Texas and the federal government. Student workers should consider both options as a viable way forward.
Last semester I was brought in by Department of Housing and Residential Life administrators to attend a “fact-finding” meeting related to an article I wrote about housing on campus, even though neither myself nor any of the RAs that I interviewed had violated university policy and we were well within our rights as student workers and citizens to voice our opinions. When that happened, my fellow students, RAs, and members of The University Star were there to support me, not the university administration.
For this writer, it’s clear who we should rely on. To any administrators reading this article, I encourage you to recognize unionization as something that can benefit everyone by allowing the university to enter into a more equitable relationship with its student workers.
 Andrew Hodge is an English and communications senior
The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor-in-Chief and Opinions Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.

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