Tag Archives: Arrests

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

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Firing of Workers Who Failed to Provide Documents Divides Pomona College

From The Chronicle of Higher Education: Link to original article

By EMMA ROLLER

When Pomona College fired 17 employees in December because they could not prove they were in the United States legally, it created a divisive controversy on the campus at the same time that it raised a tricky question: How can a college best handle obeying a law that many students and faculty members disagree with?

Even David Oxtoby, Pomona’s president, has called the situation at the Claremont, Calif., institution ironic, given the college’s commitment to promoting Latino culture and diversity on campus. And while Mr. Oxtoby and members of Pomona’s Board of Trustees have said their hands were tied in the matter, some students and faculty members think the liberal-arts college, one of the wealthiest in the United States, could have handled the situation with more respect for the employees. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

KCRW 89.9FM: Worker Firings Inflame Pomona College

President David Oxtoby and Pitzer Professor Emeritus José Calderón speak on local public radio about worker firings (starts 19:55min into the program)

Tagged , , ,

Inland Empire Weekly: Social Activism 101

From The Inland Empire Weekly: Link to original article

By TOMMY PURVIS

Pomona College administrators’ ivory tower group think and the finer virtues of noblesse oblige appear to stop at the bottom line. It was evident on Dec. 1 when College President David W. Oxtoby stood firm in the face of public pressure to fire 17 long-term immigrant employees following their two-year effort to form a union. The decision was met with simultaneous and instant direct action from students, alumni, faculty, community members, a workers’ rights organization and a formidable union.

For years, the Frary Dining Hall workers made fine college cuisine and cleaned dishes for students in the 80-year-old building made famous from the priceless hand-painted mural on the great north wall by Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco. The well-known image of Prometheus—the Titan from Greek mythology who stole fire from Zeus to give to the mortals—is proof that life does often imitate art. At least for the students from this liberal arts college who are awake and trumpets social activism. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

Feldblum: Public Announcement of Arrests and Civil Disobedience

Dear Students,

I want to share with you what we know about the events that took place on campus this morning.

A group of about 125 to 150 protestors, including some students and alumni from Pomona and other colleges and representatives of UNITE-HERE, conducted a demonstration and sit-in after breakfast this morning in Frary Dining Hall. They were permitted to take over the dining hall and the servery, but for health and safety reasons, they were not permitted to enter the kitchen areas, where College employees were at work. The organizers stated that their intention was to have 17 of their number arrested by Claremont Police, but College officials declined to have them arrested so long as they were peaceful.

The protestors then moved to Alexander Hall, where they resumed their protest, continuing their stated intention of being arrested. Around 11:30 this morning, as a result of a negotiation between the protestors and the police, CPD arrested 17 protestors for blocking College Avenue.

Frary was closed as a safety precaution as a result of the demonstration. We will give you an update as soon as possible as to when it will reopen. We know that these events can be distressing to members of our community, and I will try to share with you more information as it becomes available.

The College is committed to respecting the rights of, and supporting, those who wish to protest as well as those who do not wish to take part.

Sincerely,

Dean Feldblum

Tagged , ,

Claremont Port Side: 15 Arrested in Protest of Pomona Dining Hall Firings

From Claremont Port Side: Link to original article

At a civil disobedience action protesting yesterday’s firing of 17 Pomona dining hall workers, 15 workers, students, professors and alumni were arrested by the Claremont Police Department after blocking College Avenue this morning. Eighty-four students, faculty, and staff employed by Pomona College were notified of discrepancies in their work documentation (specifically I-9 forms) on November 7 and were given until 5 p.m. yesterday, December 1, to address the issues. Seventeen workers could not meet the deadline and were subsequently fired.

The protest of roughly 150-200 people started this morning with a sit-in in Frary Dining Hall, already the focus of a continued boycott since Wednesday of this week. Natty Spielberg PO ‘12, who participated in the protest, explained: “Workers and students marched into Frary. The workers who were fired marched at the front, demanding to work. They were turned away by Camp Sec and managers.” By all accounts, the protest inside Frary was peaceful, no damage was done to any property, and no protesters entered the kitchen.

In Frary, college officials declined the protesters’ request to have 17 protesters arrested, on the grounds that the protesters were peaceful. The protesters subsequently moved to Alexander Hall, Pomona College’s primary administration building. Alexander Hall is also the site of a round-the-clock vigil organized by the Concerned Students of Pomona College, seeking to generate dialogue about the current documentation issues.

Following negotiations with Claremont Police Department officers at the scene, 15 protesters briefly blocked traffic on College Avenue in front of Alexander and were subsequently arrested. According to Robin Rodriguez, an organizing director with UNITE-HERE Local 11, who was at the Claremont Police Department, the arrestees included Pitzer College professor Jose Calderon, five alumni, five students, and four UNITE-HERE Local 11 members. The full list is located at the end of this article.

As of 2:50 p.m. Friday, some of the protesters had already been released, one by one, and the rest were expected to be released shortly, according to Rodriguez. They were charged with Refusal to Disperse, she said.

President David Oxtoby, when asked to comment on the arrests, said, “I wasn’t there to see them [the arrests] directly.” “We declined to arrest the protesters in the dining hall,” he said, echoing an email by Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum to the Pomona College community.

Like the boycott, the protest was organized by Workers for Justice and included workers and organizers from UNITE-HERE standing in solidarity. Workers for Justice is an independent group working for unionization at Pomona College. Protesters were also present that were not affiliated with either group.

According to Leigh Shelton, a spokesperson for UNITE HERE Local 11, “There were workers from LMU, some hotel workers. Workers with a union and some without a union.” “It’s all one fight, the workers understand that, that’s why they were there in support of the unjustly fired Pomona workers,” she said.

The arrests only add to existing controversy surrounding workers at Pomona College, who began unionization efforts on March 1, 2010. Pomona’s administration has consistently denied any connection between the recent document checks and the unionization process. (Click here for a summary of unionization efforts from the administration’s perspective.)

“The tactic that Pomona has implemented is not unusual. We’ve seen it before,” said Shelton. “It’s not uncommon for an employer to take a keener interest in worker’s documentation when they’re trying to form a union.”

Most of the workers’ efforts thus far have been dedicated to securing a free election to form an independent labor union. The night before the deadline, a Frary dining hall worker spoke to the Concerned Students at the Alexander Vigil. He said, “I’ve been doing this for two years asking for simple things, just a voting process. And they still haven’t given it to us. How long are you going to be out here [camping]? A year? Two years? Maybe longer? I hope not.”

Support for the workers and affiliated students has poured in from all corners of campus, from students to faculty. Workers for Justice, the Concerned Students and others have all expressed a continued commitment to work for workers’ rights (not only in the context of unionization). In concluding his remarks to the Concerned Students at the Alexander Vigil, the aforementioned worker said: “Keep on fighting and we’re gonna keep on fighting.”

Arrested individuals:

Isabel Juarez, Pomona ‘13
Davis Saul, Pomona ‘14
Spencer Johnson, Pomona ‘14
Karen Castro-Ayala, Scripps ‘14
Anthony Fuentes, Pitzer ‘12
Jose Calderon, Pitzer faculty
Noel Rodriguez, Pomona ‘89
Francisco Covarrubias, Pomona ‘10
Francisco Dueñas, Pomona ‘99
Katherine Duberg, Pomona ‘09
Paul Waters-Smith, Pitzer ‘10
Christopher Novoa, UNITE-HERE Local 11 member
Allen Hernandez, UNITE-HERE Local 11 member
Sean Glynn, UNITE-HERE Local 11 member
Alyssa Giachiano, UNITE-HERE Local 11 member

Tagged , , ,

The Huffington Post: Pomona College Protest: Terminated Undocumented Workers Chant ‘We’re Here And We’re Not Leaving’

From The Huffington Post: Link to original article

Pomona College dining hall workers and their supporters conducted a sit-in Friday to protest the school’s termination of workers who cannot verify their legal citizenship. Sixteen dining hall employees were terminated, effective Friday, and instead of collecting their last paycheck, they came to work chanting “We’re here and we’re not leaving.”

The dining hall workers were joined by supportive students, professors and alumni from Pomona College and the other Claremont Colleges, as well as by a number of campus employees who also received threat of termination.

Unite Here Local 11 Communications Coordinator Leigh Shelton told The Huffington Post that there were roughly 300 protestors in attendance. School officials estimated there were 150 to 200 demonstrators.

The organizers made it clear that it was their intention to have 17 protestors arrested, in solidarity with the 16 terminations, plus one stalled termination pending documents. The university declined to arrest demonstrators as long as they were peaceful, but later, as a result of negotiations with the organizers, the Claremont Police arrested 17 demonstrators for blocking an intersection.

Shelton tweeted from the protest, “100s of students rush @pomonacollege dining hall in protest unjust firing of immigrant workers;” “‘Above all this is humiliating,’ says fired @pomonacollege cook of 9 years;” and ” After 23 years @pomonacollege fires Felipa Sanchez for not showing her papers.”

The terminations started with a Nov. 7 letter the university sent to 84 employees stating that, if they did not resolve deficiencies found in their files by Dec. 1, they would face termination. The letter explained that the Board of Trustees had received a complaint that several campus employees were in the country illegally.

The action comes as dining hall workers have been trying to organize an independent union for about two years. As the Los Angeles Times reported, union negotiations with the college are currently stalled.

Cynthia Peters, media relations director for the college, told HuffPost, “The terminations had nothing to do with the union organizing. The two issues are completely separate.”

In a school-wide email, Paul Efron, chairman of the Board of Trustees, wrote “We agree that the College and some of its employees have been placed in a difficult and unfortunate situation, which we wish could have been avoided. However, while many of us believe that the country’s immigration policies are in need of reform, it is important to emphasize to the Pomona community that the College has a responsibility to comply with the current laws.”

As the Pomona College student paper, Student Life, reports, Pomona visiting professor of politics and Yale law graduate Michael Teter challenged Efron’s legal reasoning in an open letter to the Board of Trustees, “The decision to conduct an audit of the I-9s demonstrates, at best, overzealousness and, at worst, a fundamental disregard for the dignity and privacy of every employee. To seek to justify the College’s actions by referring to a discredited allegation and to federal law is disingenuous.”

Regarding the close timing of the termination to union organizing activity, Teter wrote that the college’s “intrusive and arbitrary verifications.. may also have violated the National Labor Relations Act.”

Dining hall employees–some of whom have worked for the college for 10 to 20 years–say their citizenship status has not come up with the school until now. Christian Torres, who was a cook at the college for seven years, told HuffPost, “After seven years of working very hard, I feel confused, disappointed and sad. I just don’t understand why they’re doing this.”

Tagged , ,

The Student Life: 15 Arrested in Protests Over Documentation Firings

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By JEFF ZALESIN

In a show of opposition to Pomona College’s decision to terminate 17 employees who could not verify their employment documentation before yesterday’s 5 p.m. deadline, 15 supporters of the terminated employees were arrested for refusing to move from the middle of an intersection this morning. The arrests were part of a large protest that drew more than 100 students, workers, professors, union organizers and Claremont residents.

Protesters marched into Frary Dining Hall just after breakfast hours, chanting “We’re here to work!” and demanding that the terminated dining hall employees be allowed to return to their jobs. Managers did not allow the former employees and their supporters to enter the kitchen.

“What you’re doing is wrong,” one fired worker told Dining Services General Manager Glenn Graziano, who stood between protesters and the Frary kitchen. “We have given our lives here to work for the students, and we will not let you remove us.” Several officers from Campus Safety and the Claremont Police Department (CPD) were stationed outside Frary, with some Campus Safety officers inside the building as well.

After hearing a series of speeches by fired workers and labor advocates, the protesters marched to Alexander Hall, where they picketed. They then moved to the intersection of Fourth Street and College Avenue, close to Pomona President David Oxtoby’s home, where 15 of them sat down in the street to carry out a planned act of civil disobedience.

CPD officers arrested these 15 protesters, a group that included current 5C students as well as alumni and Pitzer College professor José Calderón, after they ignored repeated commands to disperse. As they were being handcuffed, these protesters called the names of fired workers and denounced what they described as an unjust decision by the Pomona administration, while a crowd of supporters chanted “Sí, se puede” and “This is what democracy looks like” from the sidewalk.

“Many years from now, I know your children and students will ask you, ‘Where were you on that day when they fired those workers that brought the food to your table?’” Calderón said in a speech at Frary, just after announcing that he was prepared to be arrested. “All of you are going to be able to say to your children, ‘I was there and I was fighting injustice.’”

“I’m ready to sacrifice some things in order to create a different atmosphere for Pomona College workers in the future,” said Davis Saul PO ’14, who was also arrested.

By the end of the day, all 15 arrested protesters were released from jail and assigned court appearance dates.

Calderón also said that the terminated workers had begun to receive support from national organizations that are interested in trying to counteract the Pomona administration’s decision.

“We’re getting messages from legal and civil rights organizations that they feel that what the Pomona College administration is doing is illegal,” he told The Student Life.

In addition to the support of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Pomona’s terminated workers have received a message of support from Judy Chu, a Southern California Democrat in the House of Representatives. Bryan Urias, a member of Chu’s staff, attended today’s protest on behalf of the congresswoman, who may soon become Claremont’s representative because of citizen-led redistricting.

“She wanted me to be here to let all of you know, to let the workers know, to let Pomona College know, that she is watching what is going on and she is disgusted with the process that happened here,” Urias said.

Urias added that Chu had personally called President Oxtoby to ask him to reconsider his decision to terminate employees who could not update their documentation by Dec. 1. He also said that Chu’s office intended to help the terminated workers who wanted to fix their documentation and get re-hired by Pomona.

The protesters who were arrested had initially planned to hold their sit-in inside one of Pomona’s dining halls. Such an action might not have led to arrest, according to Pomona administrators.

“At a meeting this morning, we actually got word that there were protesters going into Frary Dining Hall, and a decision was made that if there was going to be a sit-in in the dining hall, we would allow that sit-in to take place,” Pomona spokesperson Cynthia Peters said.

Peters added that some of the reporters she spoke to about the protest seemed to confuse the issue of employment documentation with the dining hall workers’ union drive. Pomona administrators have maintained that the process of checking documents was not timed to counteract the union drive.

“Telemundo called me this evening to ask me to comment on the arrests relating to unionization, so I think it’s a co-mingling of the two issues again,” Peters said.

Some protesters, however, remained suspicious of the claim that the document checks and subsequent terminations were not union-busting tactics.

“This is one of the richest colleges in the country,” Francisco Dueñas PO ’99 told the crowd inside Frary. “And yet today, in order to be able to not pay a few more dollars to their workers, this college is betraying its trust and betraying its morals. This college is selling its soul.”

“We do need to keep on fighting,” Dueñas added. “I think that this is only the beginning, and we’re going to be here until the end.”

Tagged , ,