Student Assistant Labor United – United Auto Workers at UC Santa Barbara organized a May Day rally on May 1 to raise awareness for its student assistant unionization effort. 

The effort follows the University’s refusal to recognize the Student Dining Labor Union in February, saying its unit size was too small. 

Formerly known as the Student Dining Labor Union, Student Assistant Labor United – United Auto Workers (SALU-UAW) wants to unionize student assistants in every department across campus, including residential, dining, academic, Disabled Students Program and recreation, according to the group’s Instagram. 

To file for unionization with the Public Employee Relations Board, the group needs a majority of student assistants to sign union authorization cards. 

“Alongside the many concerns you may feel about your workplace, we are seeking to improve our workplace with demands like fair wages, better working conditions, harassment protections, and flexibility in scheduling through collective bargaining,” SALU-UAW’s Frequently Asked Questions & Answers read

The group of nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate students marched from Storke Tower to the Arbor. 

At the Arbor, organizers opened the rally by outlining SALU-UAW’s mission. Programming then broke into testimonials from graduate students who were involved in the graduate student union effort in 2022. 

“Despite all of our different roles and our experiences, what we’re doing here at campus … unites us together,” a speaker, who wished to remain anonymous, said. 

College of Engineering graduate student Madeline Vailhe spoke to her reasons for joining the rally. 

“I’m here to basically support all the graduate student workers that I work with … and show solidarity,” Vailhe said.

First-year political science major Isabella Prittie emphasized the impact of unionization efforts. 

“It shows solidarity amongst all student workers, and shows that we are a collective, and we’re willing to fight for things like higher wages, and sick leave and benefits,” they said. “Stuff that all workers deserve to have,” they said. 

Second-year pre-biology major Michael Collin said he joined the rally to advocate for better conditions at his current job at campus catering. 

“The University has a history of underpaying workers,” Collin said. “I know a lot of other people really struggle to afford rent here, especially in Santa Barbara, where rent is really high.” 

After the demonstration, participants engaged in a “unionization blitz” where they went to different department offices across campuses and asked student assistants to sign authorization cards. 

The demonstration ended around 1 p.m. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 5 of the May 9, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.


Lizzy Rager
Lizzy Rager (she/her) is the Assistant News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. She can be reached at
Asumi Shuda
Asumi Shuda (they/them) is the Lead News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Shuda was the Deputy News Editor, Community Outreach News Editor for the 2022-23 school year and the 2021-22 school year and an Assistant News Editor during the 2020-21 school year. They can be reached at or