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Campus Equity Week highlights unionization, fair pay

Panelists speak at the “Unionization at CSU?” event for Campus Equity Week Oct. 28. (Garrett Mogel | The Collegian)

Colorado State University put together Campus Equity Week starting Oct. 25, supported by non-tenure track faculty at CSU and the American Association of University Professors.​​ The event, held annually, brings speakers and discussion spaces to CSU that aim to educate students and advocate for non-tenure track faculty on college campuses, according to SOURCE.

This year, the week included a workshop, a panel and a listening session. One of the events, Unionization at CSU?, was a discussion about the possibilities for unions and collective bargaining at CSU and focused on the upcoming Public Workers Collective Bargaining Bill. 

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“I think we have a moral, if not ethical, obligation to ensure that we do everything we can to bring about equity in our pay structure here in Colorado,” said Andrew Boesenecker, state representative for House District 53, during the panel discussion. “The unions have our back when we go to work, and this is one of the ways that we ensure pay equity.”

The bill will allow all the public sector workers to form or join a union and require employers to bargain with that union over wages, workloads, health insurance, safety protocols, sick leave and other benefits, according to a pamphlet handed out during the panel. 

So many of these undergraduate students are being taught by people who have to decide if they’re going to get health care or have their own room or have a car next semester. They’re taught by people who every semester have to check job boards to see if there’s somewhere that will give them … better conditions.”- Alex Wolf-Root, adjunct lecturer at University of Colorado Boulder and inaugural president of United Campus Workers

“My last job before coming here was working at Illegal Pete’s as a cook in the kitchen,” said Alex Pelissero, graduate teaching assistant at CSU and member of the Graduate Workers Organizing Cooperative, during the panel discussion. “I made almost twice as much there making salsa and carnitas than teaching.” 

According to GWOC, an organization that advocates for graduate workers at CSU, graduate students’ base fees are $880 per semester and oftentimes about $350 in miscellaneous fees. This is significantly higher than other peer institutions, at about $421 each semester. 

“I’m an adjunct; I get something like 5-10% of the tuition dollars at my classes,” said Alex Wolf-Root, an adjunct lecturer at University of Colorado Boulder and inaugural president of United Campus Workers. “Every time my students find that out or figure that out, they’re wondering what the heck they’re paying for.” 

“So many of these undergraduate students are being taught by people who have to decide if they’re going to get health care or have their own room or have a car next semester,” Wolf-Root said. “They’re taught by people who every semester have to check job boards to see if there’s somewhere that will give them … better conditions.” 

Another big concern was how CSU compares to its peer institutions and a lack of acknowledgement from the Board of Governors.

Gretchen O’Dell asks the beginning question of a unionization at Colorado State University panel in the Lory Student Center Oct. 28. The panel was a discussion as well as a Question and answer to the public workers collective bargaining bill. (Garrett Mogel | The Collegian)
Gretchen O’Dell asks the beginning question of a unionization at Colorado State University panel in the Lory Student Center Oct. 28. The panel was a discussion as well as a Question and answer to the public workers collective bargaining bill. (Garrett Mogel | The Collegian)

“President (Joyce) McConnell and the Board of Governors so far respond to the situation largely with silence and a 3% raise that doesn’t even cover the rate of inflation,” Pelissero said. 

At the last event, the informal listening session, multiple NTTF members said they did not receive the full 3% raise included in the 2022 budget for the CSU System, which was approved by the Board of Governors in June.

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“Those of us who met expectations got 2.82%,” said John Kitchens, a faculty member in the interdisciplinary liberal arts department. “The reason I lost it was I was evacuated twice last year because of the fires; I had a medical issue, which I told (my boss) about and there was a thing called COVID-19 … so why (does) meeting expectations end up in a reduction of the state approved raise?” 

In 2020, the state legislature passed the Colorado Partnership for Quality Jobs and Services Act, which provided collective bargaining rights to most state employees. 

“But a number of key groups of workers got left out, including faculty members, graduate student employees and non-classified staff at Colorado’s state colleges and universities,” read the pamphlet handed out at the panel. 

This bill impacts between 250-300,000 workers across the state, said Dennis Dougherty, the executive director of the Colorado extension of the AFL-CIO, during the panel. 

In short, the collective bargaining bill includes demands such as:

  • All public sector workers are able to form and join a union and require employers to bargain with that union (wages, workloads, health insurance, sick leave, etc.)

  • Ensure neutrality from the employers and protections for workers who organize

  • Provide multiple paths to union recognition

The panel also discussed ways for people to get involved with the bill, including signing a petition in support of collective bargaining for public workers, sharing their story with CSU’s chapter of the AAUP or by joining AAUP or GWOC.

Reach Austria Cohn at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @AustriaCohn

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About the Contributor
Garrett Mogel
Garrett Mogel, Photo Director
Garrett Mogel is a third-year journalism student with a second field in philosophy. He is one of two photo directors for the 2023-24 school year.  Growing up in Colorado and surrounded by dreamlike landscapes and adventure sports, it was only a matter of time before Mogel picked up a camera. For over a decade, Mogel explored Colorado, portaging rivers, postholing through several feet of snow, rappelling over cliffs and skinning up mountains, all with a camera in hand. Through his adventures, Mogel began attaching stories to images and began to engage viewers in conversation about their favorite areas. Eventually, Mogel’s passion for photography and storytelling drew him to pursue a degree and career in photojournalism.  In his years at college, Mogel has worked with The Collegian every year. In progressing through the publication, Mogel has seen all the ways student media fosters growth both individually as well as through collaboration. Additionally, the opportunity to witness how impactful a story can be on a personal, organizational and community level is his greatest lesson thus far.  Beyond The Collegian, Mogel still finds time to appreciate his Colorado upbringing. When not on assignment, he can usually be found mountain biking, skiing, camping, river surfing or at home planning his next adventure.

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