Student employees can now unionize, according to the Boise State chapter of the American Federation of Teachers

student union building at boise state
Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

The Boise State chapter of the American Federation of Teachers ruled in September 2022 that students employed by the university can now join the teachers’ union, giving students a voice in the labor movement. 

“This came about through a handful of student employees and grad students who wanted representation in the union,” said Boise State senior and president of Students for Labor Aaron Liu. “The AFT had always been open to professors, classified and professional staff, and now student employees and grad students can join as well.” 

Liu explained that the change is necessary for creating informed citizens and union members out of student employees. 

“I believe in the necessity of a strong labor movement, and that comes with my own participation in the union as a university employee,” Liu said. “Getting students involved in unions and in workers’ politics now will pay off in the future, and that better future is really what motivates me.” 

A congressional report by the Joint Economic Committee showed how unions have played an important role in giving workers a voice and fighting for rights in the workplace. The report said that union workers had an 18.3% higher chance of getting health insurance through their employer. Additionally, the report showed a 77.4% increase in pay per hour for union members compared to non-members.

“There’s a struggle going on, both on campus and beyond for all workers to have a voice and have a say in our lives, and unions are a central part of that.” Liu said.

Martin Orr, Boise State professor and Idaho Federation of Teachers president, shared that students are increasingly becoming involved in labor unions.

“Support for unions is at 71% — the highest since 1965. For younger people it is a little higher,” Orr said. 

The Washington Post speculated that the support for unions has increased heavily due to disgruntled employees who suffered from issues such as pay inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For the time being, whether or not student employees will be voting members who pay dues is under deliberation. Local AFT leadership is waiting to consult national leadership before confirming students employed by the university will be voting members, according to Orr.

Liu says the goal is to allow students employed by Boise State University to be voting members, but student employees that work under third party contractors such as Chartwells, would not be able to join as voting members. They could join as non-voting members or form their own union, according to Liu.

Next semester, To learn more about unionization and how it affects Boise State student employees, the Students for Labor club on campus will meet every other Wednesday starting January 11th. 

“That’s a great first step to learn more about the AFT, unions in general, and the labor movement as a whole. Get a voice, get a vote, and take part in that struggle,” Liu said.

More information on the AFT and Students for Labor at Boise State can be found on the AFT’s website and SLF social media page @SFL_boisestate.

student union building at boise state
[Photo of the Boise State Student Union Building.]
Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

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