The United Campus Workers of Colorado wants to recruit more UCCS employees amid their steady increase in overall membership.
Dylan Harris, who represents the UCCS tenured and tenure-tracked faculty on UCW’s organizing committee, said the union has been growing slowly but surely. “I think that’s in part due to the fact that labor conversations are much more common,” he said. “People are becoming much more aware of their power as workers.”
The union represents faculty, staff and student workers across the four CU campuses. It has been responsible for campaign efforts such as helping raise minimum wage at UCCS to $15.
Starting in September 2021, the “Fight for 15” petition was one of UCW’s ventures at UCCS. The petition was delivered to the vice chancellor of student affairs Carlos García in the spring of 2022 and included over 1,000 signatures. At the beginning of the fall 2022 semester, the minimum wage increased to $14 then subsequently raised to $15 at the start of this semester.
Harris acknowledged that the efforts of students led “Fight for 15” to success the most.
“I’m pretty confident in suggesting that it wouldn’t have happened without significant pressure from the petition and other students asking for it,” Harris said.
At the time of the “Fight for 15,” some people, including former Chancellor Venkat Reddy, were worried the raise would end up giving less hours to students and lessen the number of students the campus could employ.
Director of student employment Shannon Cable said the increase of minimum wage has been positive overall because it supports student employees and makes UCCS a competitive employer in the area.
“The increase has required campus departments to be intentional about how they budget for student employees and how they plan for each position. For example, the number of hours available each week per position [and] the number of positions needed,” Cable said.
According to Cable, the general campus, along with its colleges and departments, have worked together to fund the student hourly positions. Funding from a variety of outside sources, such as federal and state work study programs or sponsored projects, also contributes to supporting student wages.
Currently, the UCW is working on “Raise the Floor,” a campaign that advocates for increased wages for UCCS workers. The campaign asks for assistant lecturers to be paid $9,000 a class from the current rate of $3,000 as well as instructor salaries to be raised to $75,000 a year.
Harris said student workers can benefit greatly from joining UCW. On top of working to improve the campus, students in the union get the opportunity to learn how to have productive conversations about difficult issues.
“There’s lots of options for personal growth, personal development but also just growing campus presence as well,” Harris said. “They have a lot of power in shaping their experiences at the campus that they pay to go to.”
Union members pay monthly dues that are based on income, starting at $8 a month for employees making less than $20,000 a year and up to $55 a month for employees making over $115,000 a year.
Harris said dues are important because they allow UCW to hold effective meetings and events and make advertising materials. Dues also cover the cost of memberships benefits, which include up to six hours of childcare reimbursement a month to attend meetings, access to lawyers and training opportunities.
If a UCCS employee is interested in learning more about union work but is unable to afford the union dues, Harris recommends attending a meeting or reaching out to a union member to learn about how they can participate.
Student employees interested in joining UCW can find more information on the UCW website.
Current campaign for UCCS UCW. Photo from ucwcolorado.org/uccs.