Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Huffington Post: For Cesar Chavez Day, Can Pomona College Give Peace a Chance? Si, Se puede!

From The Huffington Post: Link to original article

By MARIA ELENA DURAZO

It would be Cesar Chavez’s 85th birthday. Every year, his holiday is an opportunity for us to reflect on his legacy. But Cesar’s legacy is not just the thousands of lives he helped change, it’s also values that he stood for, and reminds us of our obligation to continue to champion those values wherever they are threatened, even today. We honor Cesar’s legacy every day we fight for justice for workers, when we march with them for change. That is why I will spend this Cesar Chavez Day at Pomona College, standing side by side with that college’s dining hall workers.

Through organizing, strikes, and boycotts with the United Farm Workers, men and women stepped out of the shadows and into the moral reckoning of an entire nation. The fact that the food we eat was harvested with suffering, transformed how Americans think about food. The movement work of the ’60s and ’70s continues to resound today in fields, supermarkets, and kitchens, as well as on the tables of millions of Americans.

Farm workers made gains through bravery, courage and solidarity. Like generations of immigrant workers who came before, the farm workers laid claim to the American Dream by founding a union of their own, to secure in a contract, fair wages, safe working conditions, and respect for their very humanity. And like those previous generations of workers who organized, the farm workers’ status as immigrants to this country was a vulnerability that growers used to intimidate, terrorize and divide them, just as textile mill owners had done the same to the men, women and children from Italy and Eastern Europe who they once relied on to be docile, silent and unwilling to protest. Continue reading

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The Los Angeles Times: Pomona College Protest’s Party Atmosphere Belies Strife

From The Los Angeles Times: Link to original article

By PALOMA ESQUIVEL

The protest at Pomona College on Friday was much like a big outdoor celebration. Tables were set in the middle of the street, a mariachi played, and electrical and grocery union workers served carne asada. But beneath it simmered a dispute between dining hall workers and the administration that has placed the small liberal arts college on the map of the nation’s battles over labor and immigration policy.

The quarrel over a unionization effort, which had endured for two years, took a dramatic turn in December when the school fired 17 immigrant workers because they could not provide proper paperwork.

The firings galvanized workers, many students and some faculty. Months later, the unrest continues. For several weeks, some students set up tents in front of the campus in protest. Others blocked an intersection and were arrested. They have demanded that the workers be reinstated and that the school accept a neutrality agreement with union organizers. Continue reading

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The Student Life: César Chávez Day Rally Draws Hundreds in Support of Workers

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By ANNA PETKOVICH AND JEFF ZALESIN

Hundreds of students, workers, immigrant rights advocates and union organizers gathered at Pomona College on March 30 in support of the dining hall workers’ efforts to unionize. The rally, which came in the wake the controversial firing of 17 Pomona employees in December, was organized by Workers for Justice (WFJ), UNITE-HERE Local 11 and other labor groups.

The protesters called for the Pomona administration to rehire the 17 fired workers and to commit to neutrality in WFJ’s union-organizing campaign. UNITE HERE Local 11 leaders estimated that more than 800 supporters attended the rally.

“Today is César Chávez day, which is a special day, and that’s why we want to highlight that what he stood for was to protect all workers, no matter their immigration status, and to do the right thing,” said Tom Walsh, President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “We believe it was wrong for the college to respond in this way. It’s gone against all the traditions of Pomona College.”

The event culminated in what the organizers called a “Dining Hall in the Streets,” with lunch cooked and served by union members from outside Claremont. It also included a march from Shelton Park in the village to campus, musical performances and speeches by WFJ supporters and Congresswoman Judy Chu, Democrat of California. Continue reading

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Inland Valley Daily Bulletin: Rally supports fired Pomona College workers

From The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin: Link to original article

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.”

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The Claremont Progressive: Alternative Donations

From The Claremont ProgressiveLink to original article

Rather than donating to the Senior Gift, we can choose to donate to alternative funds that directly support the dining hall workers. One such fund is with the Center for the Working Poor, an inter-faith intentional, registered 501(c)(3) organization committed to strategic non-violent social change. It delivers food directly to workers fired for being involved in unionization campaigns and speaking up about poor working conditions. Last semester, the Center delivered food to the 16 fired dining hall workers and has agreed to host a fund to renew that effort. All one-time donations to the Center for the Working Poor will go directly towards this fund for fired Pomona dining hall workers. For more information about the Center, please visit: http://www.centerfortheworkingpoor.org. To donate now, click on the donate button on the right side of the page. Feel free to send any questions or comments to the Progressive’s email address at theclaremontprogressive[at]gmail[dot]com.

The Student Life: Why I Won’t Donate to the Senior Gift

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By SAMUEL PANG

It has been three long and hard years of dance parties, keg stands and occasional studying, and we, the Class of 2012, have finally made it to the almost mystical time we only dreamed about as first-years: our senior year. For all of our countless hardships, we are rewarded by Pomona College with an amount of food, drink and ritual merrymaking so extravagant and exorbitant it could begin to make even Dionysus jealous. But these new bonuses are not free of stipulations; as seniors, we have two main responsibilities: to graduate as soon as possible and to cultivate a healthy habit of handing over portions of our future paychecks to the school’s annual fund, starting with the senior gift. The senior gift is described as a way to give back to and thank Pomona for all the “life-shaping educational opportunities” it has given us. And while this money does go toward academic programming, scholarships and student life, it is important to remember that it takes an entire community to create the experiences we have had here and that this community includes all workers, staff, faculty and students. Because this college does not treat all members of our community, especially its most marginalized ones, equally and with respect, I am committed to refuse to donate to the senior gift and urge all of you to think critically about your decision to donate as well. Continue reading

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ASPC Senate Resolution

Fellow Students,

In today’s meeting, the ASPC Senate approved the below resolution. I am also sending the resolution to the full Board of Trustees. Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or comments.

Resolution of the Senate of the Associated Students of Pomona College

March 5, 2012

WHEREAS a complaint to the Chair of the Board of Trustees prompted an investigation into the work authorization papers of all college employees that led to the termination of seventeen employees; and

WHEREAS the process by which the Board of Trustees leadership dealt with the complaint and subsequent investigation is still unclear to students; and

WHEREAS the Board of Trustees is currently writing a report on the details of how the Board of Trustees leadership dealt with the complaint; and

WHEREAS students respect the need for whistleblower complaints to be kept anonymous;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Senate of the Associated Students of Pomona College, on behalf of the student body, calls on the Board of Trustees to release to the college community the internal report on the events surrounding the worker terminations as soon as it is completed. We call on the Board of Trustees to release the report in full, with the exception of details that identify the person who made the complaint.

Nathaniel Brown
ASPC President
Pomona College ’12
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The Chronicle of Higher Education: Why Labor Organizing is a Civil Right — and Why Ann Coulter is Wrong

From The Chronicle of Higher Education: Link to original article

By RICHARD KAHLENBERG

On Thursday, I published an op-ed in The New York Times with Moshe Marvit, a labor and job discrimination attorney, arguing that we should amend the Civil Rights Act to outlaw discrimination against workers trying to organize a union. Under current labor laws, dismissing an employee for union activities is technically illegal, but the law is routinely broken because the penalties are so weak. In the op-ed and a new book, Why Labor Organizing Should Be a Civil Right, we argue that the opportunity to organize in the workplace is a fundamental human right that deserves protection under the Civil Rights Act, which has much more powerful sanctions than our labor laws.

Labor and civil rights leaders have generally been supportive. In the days since publication of the op-ed, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, endorsed the concept of amending the Civil Rights Act to protect the fundamental right of labor organizing. The other big labor federation, Change to Win, republished the Times op-ed on its Web site. And gender, race, and politics scholar Melissa Harris-Perry articulatedthe case on her MSNBC show. The book itself has blurbs from a broad cross-section of civil rights and labor advocates, including Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Amy B. Dean, former president and CEO of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, and David Madland of the Center for American Progress.

But conservative opponents of civil rights and labor have vigorously denounced the idea. For example, commentator Ann Coulter argued on FOX Business that Democrats “have forgotten what the purpose of the Civil Rights Act was.” She suggested, “civil rights is for blacks,” and complained, “now they want to call everything a civil right, whether it’s women or immigrants, and now labor unions?”

Coulter’s argument involves a classic divide and conquer strategy.  Conservatives are terrified of the idea of a revived labor movement, which, in its heyday, brought America a host of progressive social legislation, from the Civil Rights Act to Medicare. To divide natural allies, Coulter argued not only that labor shouldn’t be included under the Civil Rights Act, but also women, and Latinos as well.

So is it proper to include labor organizing as a civil right? The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared that “everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” And an ongoing case—involving Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.—illustrates the strong connection between labor and people of color in modern times. Continue reading

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The Student Life: WFJ and UNITE HERE Rally Against Pomona Board of Trustees

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By ETHAN GROSSMAN

Demonstrators gathered outside Pomona College’s Smith Campus Center Feb. 24 to show solidarity with the 17 Pomona employees fired in December when they could not produce immigration documents by the college’s deadline, and to support Workers for Justice, the pro-union group of Pomona dining hall workers. The event was scheduled to coincide with the Trustee-Faculty Retreat in Rancho Palos Verdes.

“We wanted to make sure that, as the Board of Trustees are in the greater area, that we sent a message that the people who really embody the values of Pomona and care about the values that the trustees purport to care about are workers, alums, students and faculty, and that we’re the community that is Pomona,” said Robin Rodriguez, an organizer for UNITE HERE Local 11, a southern California affiliate of UNITE HERE, a union representing workers throughout North America.

The organization of the event was a collaborative effort by WFJ, students and UNITE HERE Local 11. A group of supporters started the event by marching down Sixth Street, turning on College Avenue and ending on the lawn in front of the Smith Campus Center. Continue reading

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Feldblum: Trustee-Student Task Force on Campus Community Communication Final Recommendations and Next Steps

Dear Students,

On behalf of the Trustee-Student Task Force on Campus Community Communication, we would like to share with you the six Task Force Recommendations, all of which were accepted – with revisions to the details of two of the recommendations – by the Board of Trustees Student Affairs Committee last Friday.   The six recommendations of the Task Force are as follows, and you can read the full Task Force report on the Dean of Students Sakai site:

1.       Enhance the Board of Trustees website to include information on how the Board works. Specifically, information about Board members, Committee rosters including information about the Trustee Committee Chair and Vice-Chair, and contact information for student representatives, contact information for the newly re-envisioned Student Affairs Committee and institutionalized communication channel.  Post agenda of Board of Trustee Committee meetings concurrent with mailing to trustees to allow students to triage their comments on any of these topics to student representatives on the respective committees. Post on the website soon after Board meetings the action items that were taken during the board meeting (in draft form if need be).  Post as appropriate links to reports or executive summaries from reports.

2.       Add students to specific Board Committees, including 1 additional student representative to the newly re-envisioned Student Affairs Committee, and 1 additional student to the Academic Affairs Committee, and add 2 student members to the Finance Committee (where there is currently no student member). This will increase the number of student slots on Board committees from 6 to 10.

3.       Re-engineer the Student Affairs Committee into the Student-Trustee “College Affairs” Committee, whose mission would be enhanced as a vehicle of communication between students and trustees and by including all the student representatives from the different Board committees.  The student Co-Chair would be the ASPC President and would work closely with the Trustee Chair and Dean of Students to advise on agenda items related to student life and general issues of communication with the student body.  The Trustee Chair would serve as the primary Trustee-Student liaison for the Board.

4.       Create opportunities for formal and informal dinners between small groups of students and trustees. Particular attention should be paid to setting up dinners during the year with members of the student leadership groups focused on community building on campus.  Opportunities for such interaction could include quarterly Board of Trustee Meetings and whenever trustees are on campus such as for Task Force meetings, etc.

5.       Institutionalize a visible channel of communication for students to give feedback throughout the year or provide comments regarding specific issues. This channel would be connected to the newly re-envisioned Student Affairs Committee. Create a process by which comment periods can be initiated to address issues.  Create an email alias as part of this institutionalized communication channel to which students would send comments or other feedback, and receive confirmation that their messages were received.

6.       Review these changes after a year to ascertain if they are effectively addressing the issues identified by the Task Force.

The full Board received the Task Force report, and approved a motion to support the additional student member positions on Board Committees as outlined in the Report so that the Trusteeship Committee can move forward with its work  of making recommendations for bylaw changes for the Board to consider, and  so that there could be spring elections for the 3 new positions.   Nate Brown will be sending out additional information regarding these new elected positions.

As always, if you have any questions about the revisions or other issues, please feel free to email me.  Or, you also can contact one of the students on the Task Force.

Sincerely,

Dean Feldblum

Members of Task Force:

Jason Rosenthal, Co-Chair, PO ‘92

Lynn Yonekura, Co-Chair, PO ‘70

Leslie Appleton, PO ‘12

John Bonacorsi, PO ‘12

Maya Booth, PO ‘14

Nate Brown, PO ‘12

Alice Chan PO ‘14

Miriam Feldblum, VP and Dean of Students

Kathy Lu, PO, ‘14

Meg Lodise, PO ‘85

Frank Sánchez, PO ‘13

Francine Scinto, P ’09, ‘11

Michael Segal, PO ‘79

Emi Young, PO ‘13

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