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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The Student Life: Religious Leaders Support Workers with Vigil

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By CARRIE WU

Students of the Claremont Colleges, past and present Pomona dining hall workers and members of the local community gathered Feb. 22 for a vigil to support the 17 Pomona employees fired in December and to show solidarity for the unionization efforts ahead.

The vigil was scheduled to coincide with Ash Wednesday. It began with a welcome by Reverend Karen Sapio from the local Claremont Presbyterian Church, followed by Bible readings from several Pomona students, Reverend Dr. David Cortes-Fuentes from the Emmanuel Hispanic Presbyterian Church in Claremont and Father Peter O’Reilly from the Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Claremont.

The event ended with a ceremony to mark participants’ foreheads with ashes, which served as, “a pledge to work together despite difficulties, sometimes failure,” O’Reilly said. Participants also recited quotes from famous past labor organizers such as César Chávez. Continue reading

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The Student Life: Board of Trustees Must Release Internal Report

From The Student Life: Link to original article

We commend the time, thought and deliberate discussion that the Trustee-Student Task Force on Campus Community Communication spent developing its recommendations (to be voted on by the Student Affairs Committee today) to the Pomona College Board of Trustees to enhance dialogue between students and trustees. However, in order to live up to the stated purpose of the task force, the board must do more than the minimum that would be required in order to comply with the recommendations. Once the board has completed its internal review of the events that led to the firing of 17 Pomona employees last semester, it should publish the full text of the report produced by this investigation.

The task force has recommended that the board publish some version of the investigation’s findings—either the full report or a summary. We believe that publishing a summary of the report would not suffice. The board should publish the full report for three reasons. First, the publication would be an immediate and vital fulfillment of the stated charge to the task force: to promote “communication, responsiveness and understanding” between students and trustees. Continue reading

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The Huffington Post: Immigration Reform and Unionization; Dining Hall Workers Seek Justice For All Workers

From The Huffington Post: Link to original article

By FERNANDO ROMERO

No one would’ve thought that the immigration debate would make a stop in the cookie-cutter community of Claremont, California. But the recent firing of 16 kitchen staff workers at Pomona College has caught national attention and caused immigrant rights groups and community activist in the Inland Empire to erupt in anger.

In its effort to prevent the kitchen staff’s unionization, the Pomona College Board of Trustees and school administration continued its history of union-busting tactics, manifested into unmistakable anti-immigrant and xenophobic sentiments against the 16 dining hall workers who were fired last December. These acts committed by the trustees go against the very ideals the institution is supposed to uphold, and had done so since its founding in 1887. Taking center stage is the complex immigration issue. Continue reading

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KPCC: Students, faculty, former workers divided over firing of undocumented workers at Pomona

From KPCC: Link to original article

By RUXANDRA GUIDI

Two months after Pomona College fired 17 undocumented employees, students and kitchen workers are still demanding their old jobs back and hoping to start a union.

Pomona College President David Oxtoby has spent a lot of time defending the firings, but he has always insisted he was only following the law.

“The rules, the laws are pretty straightforward and strict,” he said, sitting in his campus office. “If you have any inadequacy, anything deficient in work authorization documents, you have to get that corrected. So that is what happened in the fall.”

It all started with complaints about lax hiring practices that reached Pomona College’s board of trustees. The school hired an outside firm, which found 17 workers – 16 of them in the kitchen – who were without legal documents.

Oxtoby admitted he was conflicted over the decision to terminate the employees.

“One thing that has been suggested is that we should simply as a college say, ‘this is an unjust law and we are not going to obey it’,” he said. “And we certainly did consider that possibility. That would be civil disobedience for a college. To me, however, that is something that an individual can make a decision on.” Continue reading

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Feldblum: Update from the Trustee-Student Task Force on Communication

Dear Students,

On behalf of the Trustee-Student Task Force on Campus Community Communications,  I am writing to give you an update on the work of the Task Force and open up a comment period for you to send in any feedback to the Task Force (please see below for a list of all Task Force members and the Charge of the Task Force).   All comments should be received by February 22, 2012

The Task Force has had 2 meetings, and is scheduled to have 2 more over this next week, February 19 and February 23.   Members have worked to collect information about Board communications, student-trustee interactions, and student representation on Boards from other campuses, and have explored a wide array of ideas. The two Co-Chairs of the Task Force are Jason Rosenthal, PO ‘92 and Lynn Yonekura PO ’70.  The Task Force anticipates presenting a set of recommendations to the Board of Trustees at the February Board of Trustees meeting.

The Task Force is currently exploring recommendations in four areas: Continue reading

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The Student Life: Flaws in Board of Trustees Call for Reforms

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By ALAN MITCHELL

Perhaps the most generous observation one might make about last semester’s documentation controversy is that it generated a great deal of conversation. From passionate TSL articles to Facebook diatribes to protest movements, I have never seen the entirety of the Pomona community as engaged as it was in the aftermath of the abrupt termination of 17 members of the Pomona College staff. Unfortunately, despite all of that engagement and conversation, I don’t think that our campus ever came to a consensus about the legal and ethical requirements of the situation—and I rather doubt that we will. The situation is still too unclear, the emotions too raw and the legal situation too vague for common ground to be reached easily (or maybe at all).

In light of the above analysis and the fact that the Board has already made its final decision on the matter, I recommend that we, the student body, set aside our ongoing disagreements about the particulars of the situation for the time being. I suggest we set it aside not to forget about it, but to focus on an underlying issue that the ugly events of last semester brought to the surface: the transparency, accountability and legitimacy of the Board of Trustees. Continue reading

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