As a student worker at the Associated Students UCLA, work often burdens me more than academics. That shouldn’t be the case.
ASUCLA employs over 1,500 students, making it the largest employer of students on campus. According to its website, one of its core missions is the professional development of student employees.
Yet, student workers are expected to manage the floor and sometimes even clean tables when ASUCLA stores and restaurant are understaffed on career workers. These are not responsibilities listed on their job descriptions, though. ASUCLA apparently thinks student workers, who have more than just their jobs on their plates, should carry the burden of running a floor without the supervision of a manager.
ASUCLA store managers and directors need to better understand the job expectations from students. Student supervisors should be ensuring that students are not having difficulties with the customers, not having them manage stores.
However, ASUCLA directors do not recognize student workers’ efforts to keep these stores running and have ignored their concerns.
For example, Vincent Garcia, a fourth-year sociology student and head of the bussing department for the first floor of Ackerman Union is responsible for training other bussers and other jobs such as cleaning tables and taking out the trash. Garcia said it is unfair he is expected to attend to career workers’ issues and keep new workers up-to-date when that is clearly outside of his job description.
“When management is not present, we have to physically maintain the facility and we have to keep the business running,” Garcia said.
Similarly, Octavio Zaragoza Rodriguez, a third-year biology student and senior student supervisor at Greenhouse, said that when his manager leaves around 3:30 p.m., it is up to a team of students to figure out the logistics for events that can pop up.
“Sometimes, we deal with unexpected extended shifts because of basketball games, and without earlier notice we are forced to stay open,” Zaragoza Rodriguez said.
Kimberly Aguilar, a third-year psychology student and another senior student supervisor at Greenhouse, said she has also been expected to perform career workers’ roles when they are not present.
As student supervisors, Garcia and Aguilar must ensure that their co-workers are doing things correctly in the workplace. However, ASUCLA managers expect these students to work unexpected shifts because of events that happen on campus and cover for them when they are not present.
The upper echelons of the organization seem unaware of the problem. ASUCLA Executive Director Bob Williams said that if student workers have concerns about being overworked, they should raise them with their respective managers. If they still feel unheard, they can contact him directly. And students may need to, since many of those interviewed said they have complained to their managers multiple times with little effect.
Martin Perez, a fourth-year biology student and a senior student supervisor at the Treehouse kitchen – the centralized kitchen that provides food to Ackerman outlets like Curbside – said there is often miscommunication between career workers and managers. Perez said he has worked at this job almost every weekend for about three and a half years, yet whenever he calls off, he still gets calls to go work – regardless of whether he has a midterm or final.
Perez added that he has brought up these issues, as well as repeated instances of having to cover for career workers, with the ASUCLA managers, but said his complaints are often ignored.
This is not acceptable.
I’m not saying that career workers shouldn’t be absent if they need time off. Instead, managers need to have extra coverage for when these instances occur and must not place the burden on student workers. And if managers do want a student worker to perform the job a career worker does, then student workers should get paid the same as career workers.
Of course, ASUCLA is running on a tight budget. But since that’s the case, career workers’ job descriptions should be updated to reflect the greater workload they have. Student workers should not be given that responsibility. After all, students’ academics come first.
ASUCLA store managers and directors need to be more aware that student workers have a lot to deal with – school, balancing clubs and commitments, and paying rent and tuition. Placing an extra burden on student workers is against the very principles ASUCLA claims it upholds.
Managers often forget to realize that workers like me are students first and foremost and are trying our best to balance work with extracurriculars and school. All that student workers are asking for is not to be overworked. We are part-time workers after all.