By LORI CONSALVO
CLAREMONT – Months after the firing of 17 Pomona College dining hall workers, hundreds of people came to downtown to protest the action.
A number of organizations, along with students and community members, protested the decision by rallying at Shelton Park in downtown Claremont and then marching through campus chanting “If you throw us out, we’ll come back” in Spanish.
“It’s an injustice what they’re doing to their employees,” said Mary Lou Rodriguez, an Ontario resident who joined the march.
Pomona College on Dec. 2 fired the cafeteria workers after an investigation into their work status.
The workers were fired after they could not provide proof of legal eligibility to work in the United States. The action came following complaints the college was not checking such eligibility of workers as required by federal law.
Some of those workers had worked at the college for decades.
“They demanded workers who served for years to show documents. Three weeks later, they fired the workers who didn’t reproduce their documents,” said Leigh Shelton, communication coordinator for Unite Here.
Protestors called upon the college to restore peace on campus, obtain a pledge of neutrality and rehire the workers who were fired.
“Regarding the stated goals of the event, that the college `sign a pledge of neutrality’ and `re-hire the 17 fired workers,’ Pomona College has already pledged to rehire any of the 17 former employees who present Human Resources with the work authorization documents required by law, by June 30, 2012,” according to a statement from college officials.
Cynthia Peters, director of media relations for Pomona College, said the firings had nothing to do with the worker’s desire to form a union, as some have suggested.
“The college’s position has been guided by the principles that our employees have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be represented by a union and that they should be able to do so in an atmosphere free from intimidation,” according to the statement.
Erica Reiss, a third year student at Pomona College, and a group of her friends showed up to show their support and urge to school to do what they say is right.
“For us, it would mean we could be proud of the college we love so much,” Reiss said. “We really care about our school being honest and consistent.”