Occidental College’s commitment to its students extends well beyond traditional education through instruction, often to include enriching employment opportunities.

Students are able to participate in several dozen work options throughout the College, including those that engage their academic interests, enable participation in student government, and develop necessary skills for future employment.

The College’s commitment to equity applies to student employment, as students are offered competitive compensation and appropriate benefits. The College encourages students to have an active voice in their working conditions through engagement with supervisors and coworkers. 

The College is pro-student, and not opposed to the formation of unions generally. There are aspects of the typical employee-union format that we see as potentially incompatible with the student work experience. Student jobs at Oxy often have an educational or training component, or exist to strengthen connections between students and faculty, or help students fulfill work-study requirements. These goals and connections may be strained by the presence of third-party representatives. We see the value in direct and interactive dialogue with our student workers and hope that there will be opportunities for such dialogue in the future. 

The College affirmatively supports students’ right to decide whether they want to organize a union, consistent with the National Labor Relations Act. We hope that students will review all relevant information, understand unionization and how it may impact them, and fully participate in the upcoming election. Each person should decide what is best for them and be able to vote accordingly through a secret ballot election.  

FAQs

The Facts

Last updated: 4/10/24

  • On March 20, 2024, a group of Occidental College student workers, self-titled Rising Occidental Student Employees (ROSE), gathered on campus to demonstrate their interest in forming a union aligned with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721.
  • On March 22, a group representing ROSE presented their official request that the College voluntarily recognize the proposed bargaining unit.
  • On the same date, the students filed a petition for a representative election (or RC Petition) with the National Labor Relations Board, requesting a secret-ballot election on April 16, 2024.
  • The College and the Union discussed the proposed election date, location, and procedures, as well as the student positions that should be included in or excluded from the bargaining unit.
  • On April 8, the College and the Union agreed to the following:
    • The proposed bargaining unit consists of undergraduate students who are enrolled at and employed by Occidental College, excluding “[a]ll student workers performing work in positions/classifications in the following programs, services, or workplaces: The Green Bean; ASOC (Associated Students of Occidental College), including the SusFund, Honor Board, Diversity & Equity Board; FEAST (Food Energy and Sustainability Team); Bengal Bus; Bike Share Program; La Encina Yearbook; Oxy Design Service; Oxy TV; The Student Activity Center; KOXY Radio; The Occidental Student Newspaper; and The Oxy Programming Board. All students performing work in the Human Resources Office. All other employees, confidential employees, managerial employees and supervisors as defined by the Act.”  
    • The election for this bargaining unit will be on Tuesday, April 30th, 2024 at the Johnson Student Center during the following hours: 9–11 a.m., 12–3 p.m., and 4–6 p.m.
  • Also on April 8, the Union filed another petition for election, seeking to represent a separate bargaining unit consisting of all student workers in ASOC and the other student-run organizations referenced above.
  • For the newer proposed unit, if the College and Union are not able to reach agreement on the scope of the voting unit and other details, there will be a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board on April 18th to determine those items.

Frequently Asked Questions

An election is overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Eligible voters fill out a ballot that will ask whether they wish to be represented by SEIU Local 721 for purposes of collective bargaining. Once ballots are cast by eligible voters, the NLRB will tally the ballots. A simple majority of those who vote will determine the outcome. For example, if only 10 student employees were to cast ballots and 6 were to vote in favor of the union, the union would be deemed the exclusive bargaining representative for all student employees.

(a) For the first proposed unit, all current students who performed work for the College during the Fall 2023 and/or Spring 2024 semesters, excluding students in the categories noted below, are eligible to vote.

Excluded from the first unit are students performing work in the positions/classifications in the following programs, services, or workplaces: “The Green Bean; ASOC (Associated Students of Occidental College), including the SusFund, Honor Board, Diversity & Equity Board; FEAST (Food Energy and Sustainability Team); Bengal Bus; Bike Share Program; La Encina Yearbook; Oxy Design Service; Oxy TV; The Student Activity Center; KOXY Radio; The Occidental Student Newspaper; and The Oxy Programming Board. All students performing work in the Human Resources Office. All other employees, confidential employees, guards, managerial employees and supervisors as defined by the Act.”

(b) For the second proposed unit, the Union has filed a petition to represent the categories of student workers who are excluded from the first unit, namely: “Green Bean; ASOC (Associated Students of Occidental College) (including the SusFund, the Honor Board, the Diversity & Equity Board); FEAST (Food Energy and Sustainability Team); Bengal Bus; the Bike Share Program; La Encina Yearbook; Oxy Design Service; Oxy TV; the Student Activity Center; KOXY Radio; The Occidental Student Newspaper; and the Oxy Programming Board.”

Excluded from the second unit would be any employees, guards, managers, and supervisors as defined in the National Labor Relations Act.

No, although voting is encouraged for all eligible voters in order to ensure a representative outcome of an election. As noted above, a simple majority of those who vote will determine the outcome. Therefore, we encourage all student employees to cast a ballot.

No.

Yes. Voters choose “Yes” or “No.” No one is entitled to know how a voter chooses to vote unless the voter chooses to share that information. The NLRB tallies the vote.

Occidental will adhere to the National Labor Relations Act requirements and intends to work through that process as prescribed by the law. The College views an election as the best way to ensure that all students’ voices are heard.

No.

The election regarding the first unit will take place on April 30thin the Johnson Student Center from 9-11am, 12-3pm, and 4-6pm. The College and the Union are in discussions regarding the potential timing for the second election.

Then all student employees who are in each bargaining unit, respectively, will be represented by the union.  The College and the union will then begin negotiations regarding the terms and conditions of student employment, with the goal of reaching a collective bargaining agreement.

No, and the end result could be that a minority of eligible voters decide the outcome. For example, if only 10 students of more than 700 eligible voters cast ballots, and six of those students vote in favor of certifying the bargaining unit, the union would win the election. We encourage participation so that each student employee is able to have their voice heard.

Collective bargaining is the mechanism or process for an organized group of workers and their employer to pursue mutual agreement over workplace issues.

The timing is uncertain, although unlikely for fall 2024. It can take a year or more to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement.

Among other topics, a contract would likely cover SEIU’s exclusive representation of the bargaining unit, SEIU’s process for collecting dues, and employee wages and benefits.

Yes, typically as a percentage of your earnings.

No.

The College may proceed with changes that were already planned, such as an increase in the maximum work-study offer from $3850 (Academic Year 2023-2024) to $4,300 (Academic Year 2024-2025). After several years of a relatively flat work-study offer, the College began a schedule of increases in 2023 that will continue to affect students through Spring 2025.

Beyond that, the process of unionizing generally prevents the College from responding to students’ requests related to their terms and conditions of employment, or from making unilateral changes to students’ compensation, even if those changes would be beneficial to students.

It is unknown at this point how the unionization and collective bargaining processes will impact a student employee’s work-study award. However, a collective bargaining agreement cannot override federal work-study rules.   

No. If the union is certified as the exclusive representative for student employees at Occidental, all student employees will be represented by the union and will be subject to the terms and conditions of employment set forth in the collective bargaining agreement (if a CBA were negotiated).

Once a union is certified, it is very difficult to de-unionize or decertify. Even if nearly all represented employees decide they no longer want union representation, there is typically a period of at least one-to-three years during which the union cannot be decertified. We encourage you to review the NLRB page on this issue.

We cannot be sure how the presence of a student labor union on campus may impact elected student leadership, or how those two groups may allocate authority among themselves to represent Oxy students. Currently, College administrators often engage with elected student leaders on key issues impacting students; the existence of a labor union may change these interactions. In addition, ASOC plays a key role in determining student life fees and allocating them to functions such as KOXY Radio and the Bengal Bus. We do not know at this point how the proposed student labor union would impact this system of student self-governance.

Certain types of student activities that are largely managed by students and for students—such as ASOC, the Green Bean, and FEAST Garden—may need to operate under more formal College staff supervision.

Under federal law, “supervisors” may not be in the bargaining unit. This may have implications for student positions that currently involve supervision and management of other students.

Absolutely. Although they may not have all of the answers, they may at least provide resources for useful information.

General Student Work FAQs

All students who apply for financial aid and who demonstrate financial need are considered for an offer of work-study. If the student has demonstrated financial need according to federal guidelines, they are eligible for a federal work-study offer. 

Students who are not eligible for federal work-study—e.g., because they are international students, or they have other funding to meet their financial need—may still receive institutional work-study. 

Some students are not eligible for any work-study because they are not considered medium- or high-need. These students are still eligible to work in campus jobs, although they may not receive their first pick in terms of the nature or amount of work available.

Yes, the College gives preference to work-study students in hiring for student jobs, so that students are able to fully utilize their work-study awards. Because there is a limit on the amount of student work that the College can generate, students in non-work-study positions may not receive their first choice in terms of the nature or amount of work available.

The College’s policy is to meet 100% of financial need for all of its students, and work-study is part of that promise. The College’s primary goal in maintaining a student work program is to ensure that students with financial need, who are receiving work-study awards, have sufficient on-campus job opportunities. There is a limited amount of work that the College can generate for students. This is partly based on operational need, and partly based on the fact that federal work-study must not displace other employees or impair existing service contracts. Considering that the overall amount of available student work is naturally limited, the College tries to distribute it fairly among students by imposing an earnings cap.

Each student may earn up to $5,000 per year through College employment. This averages to about 10 hours per week if work is spread evenly across the Academic Year (although students may decide to work more or less during different times of the year). International students are also subject to certain limitations imposed by federal regulations and may work under an F-1 visa for no more than 20 hours per week, regardless of total annual earnings.

Yes, when there is special need to exceed the cap (such as a continuing project or job requiring special skills) and assigning the additional work would not limit opportunities for a work-study student to utilize their award.

Not necessarily. The College hopes to retain a system that creates opportunities for students based on financial need.  

All students are paid at least the Los Angeles minimum wage of $16.78/hour. This minimum rate will increase to $17.28/hour on July 1, 2024. Students may receive more than the minimum wage based on their qualifications and the skills required for the job.

The College has over 80 faculty and other employees who supervise students and are therefore “supervisors” for purposes of the National Labor Relations Act. Each of these managers would need to become familiar with the procedural and other requirements of the applicable collective bargaining agreement and abide by them. Membership in a union may change students’ relationship with the College and their supervisors (including faculty) by creating an increasingly regulated environment, where regular interactions become subject to formal, union requirements.

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