Tag Archives: Faculty

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 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

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The Student Life: Where Things Stand with Dining Hall Workers

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By QUINN LESTER

After the tumultuous events of last semester, an eerie calm has settled over the Pomona College campus. Aside from Frank Dining Hall’s closure on the weekends, there is not much evidence to attest to the firing of 17 college employees and the unprecedented protests, debates, and meetings that ensued. Even the grass in front of Alexander Hall has grown back. Yet for those 17 employees—and, I’m sure, many other students, staff, and faculty—the memories are still fresh. The “new normal” that has enveloped the campus may leave some to think that nothing came out of last semester’s event, but this is not the case. Continue reading

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The Student Life: BOT Hears Criticism, Suggestions in Meetings with Faculty, Staff, Students

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By IAN GALLOGLY

Members of the Pomona College Board of Trustees held a series of three meetings with faculty, current and former dining services employees, and students on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the recent employment authorization reviews that resulted in the termination of 17 college employees on Dec. 1, general worker concerns, and ways to improve communication between the Board and other members of the college community. Trustees were on campus this week for their quarterly Board meeting. Continue reading

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Contra Costa Times: Closed-door meetings scheduled with Pomona College officials over dismissed dining hall workers

From Contra Costa Times: Link to original article

CLAREMONT – Pomona College trustees have agreed to meet with current and fired dining hall workers, faculty members and students in closed meetings this week.
The first meeting was set for today between a group of trustees and faculty members at an undisclosed place and time. They will discuss the firing on Dec. 2 of 17 workers for lack of documentation to work legally in the United States.
“The college is hopeful the ongoing discussion among all parts of our community will help us figure out how to move forward in the best possible way,” said spokeswoman Cynthia Peters on Monday. “Its purpose is to facilitate the flow of conversation between participants.”
Two more meetings are scheduled for Wednesday.
One will include a small group of trustees, any current dining workers who want to take part and the fired employees.
The second meeting will include the board of trustee’s student affairs committee, representatives from Pomona College student government and members of the Concerned Students of Pomona College vigil who have set up tents in front of Alexander Hall in protest of the college’s actions.
The college reviewed personnel files of all employees and those who could not produce appropriate proof of legal residency in the United States were terminated.
The review was conducted because of a complaint to the board of trustees about the college’s hiring process.
The board’s decision to hold this week’s meetings followed a fast by four students to support dining hall workers. The students ended their fast Friday after the meetings were scheduled.
Pomona College faculty members approved a resolution in support of the fired workers on Dec. 7.
“The faculty finds that the recent firings of employees as a result of re-verification of immigration documentation was in contradiction to the principles of inclusion established by this body,” read the resolution.
“The faculty calls on the Administration to offer to fully fund all reasonable legal and documentation related expenses for all employees who were identified as needing to re-verify their employment eligibility, especially for the 16 employees fired on Dec. 1 in order to help them complete the necessary paperwork. When the fired employees have the proper documents, it asks they be rehired with back pay for up to two years.” A 17th worker was fired but has asked for an extension.
Miguel Tinker-Salas, professor of Latin American and Chicano history, said the faculty had called for the board to restate its support for an inclusive community that doesn’t discriminate based on race, creed, religion, immigration status and other reasons.
“We think (dining hall workers) have contributed to the welfare of the college for the last 15 to 20 years. They should be treated with respect,” Tinker-Salas said.
“(The trustees are) looking to hear from dining staff about their ideas on how the community can come together to begin to heal from the process,” Peters said.
The four students who engaged in the fast could observe and “offer quiet support” but will not participate in the one-hour meeting, according to an email from President David Oxtoby.
“I think it’s been a real testament to the students who got a meeting with members of the board of trustees and will raise the level of the dialogue in that they’re now getting more information,” said Jose Zapata Calderon, emeritus professor of sociology and Chicano Studies at Pitzer College. He was one of 15 people arrested for obstructing traffic during a protest on Dec. 2.
There will be no tape recording of the meetings, despite a request from the students, but the college said an editor from “The Student Life” newspaper could take notes and report to the community what happened.

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The Student Life: Letter to the Editor: December 5 Reply Letter to the Board

From The Student Life: Link to the original article

By MICHAEL TETER

To the Editor:

Last Thursday, I sent a letter to the Pomona College Board of Trustees that focused on the College’s work status verification of many employees. The letter was published in The Student Life, and I have since received many responses—almost uniformly supportive. But there have also been some important critiques of the letter. I want to first express my admiration for those who have taken the time to engage in a thoughtful dialogue on the issue, especially Ashvin Gandhi (’13) who made a number of valuable points that deserve attention. Those who approach such difficult questions in a constructive, honest, and sincere way serve Pomona well. But I do want to respond to the explicit criticisms leveled against my position, as well as to the implicit ones that underlie the Administration’s decision to go forward with its misguided approach.

I do not dispute that the law requires the College to act once it learns of problems in employees’ I-9 forms. But that does not end the matter for a number of reasons. First, the emphasis here should be on the fact that there was no legal reason for the College to audit each employee’s I-9 form to begin with. According to the Board, the initiating complaint was lodged against the College’s hiring policies and procedures and was not directed at any individual employee’s status. One need only look to Scripps’s president’s recent decision to halt a similar inquiry to understand that President Oxtoby had a choice as to which approach to take. Moreover, once the College undertook its audit and learned that it could not locate 84 employees’ I-9 forms, the law did not impose a specific time frame to allow employees to resolve the work verification issue. The College arbitrarily established a December 1 deadline.

Perhaps more importantly, the College seems to trumpet that 67 of the original 84 employees who received notices were able to correct the issue. In reality, however, that fact should have given the College serious pause, because it suggests that the problem was one of poor document retention, not a failure by the employees’ to have originally provided correct documentation. After all, the College undertook a review of its hiring practices and confirmed that those procedures complied with the law. Thus, the presumption should have been that every employee of the College had already provided the necessary paperwork. Even if the fact that eighty percent of the original “targets” verified their work status was not enough for the College to halt the process entirely, it was certainly cause to suspend the December 1 deadline until the College could determine if the I-9 problem was a result of its own failures.

The second criticism is that my letter suggests that the College did not need to comply with the law because it was not likely to be subjected to ICE enforcement. This would be a valid critique, but for one thing. My letter was responding to the Board’s letter to the Pomona College Community. It is the Board that framed the discussion in terms of criminal and civil risks to the College. I, therefore, took the opportunity to explain why the Board’s risk analysis was inaccurate and incomplete. At no point did the Board suggest that its decisions were driven by a concern for the rule of law, ethics, or legal morality. Obviously, many of us could lay claim to the moral high ground here, but I suspect the two sides would still end up on different mountaintops. The point, though, is that to fault my letter for focusing on the risks to the College—and, therefore, on the likelihood of enforcement—is actually a critique of the Board’s motives in this matter.

Additionally, why fealty to only one law? The events of the past week actually help prove that the College’s actions risked violating two or more other laws—further calling into question the College’s legal assessment of the situation. For example, the attorney for at least one fired worker told the employee that the College was requesting work status verification beyond what was required under the law. As I mentioned in my initial letter to the Board, this opens up the College to civil fines and penalties [1]. Further, it has been reported that the College conducted a verification check of all employees approximately nine years ago (during the last major push for a union). Yet, many of the employees fired by Pomona on December 1 had worked at the College for more than nine years. Requiring these employees to again verify their work status—and, interestingly, having most or all of them be workers in the dining hall—could also be read as violating the law’s mandate that an employer not demand “more or different documents than are required…or refus[e] to honor documents tendered that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine” [2]. After all, the College confirmed that it complied with the law at the hiring stage. Therefore, these employees must have tendered the required documents at that time, but the College was requiring “more” and was “refusing to honor” those documents.

We also now know that the 17 people that the College fired came almost entirely from the very workforce currently seeking to unionize. We know that the College conducted a similar verification the last time a major unionization effort was underway. And we also just learned that the National Labor Relations Board announced that it would be investigating two unfair labor practices complaints against the College. It is extremely likely that the College will face an additional complaint related to the firing of these workers and that the NLRB will fully investigate. To think that all the College must do to defeat such a complaint is simply to offer rationales for its actions that are unrelated to the unionization effort represents a terrible misreading of the law.

One last note on this point: the almost cruel irony here is that by firing the 17 workers, the College has not magically fallen into compliance with the relevant immigration laws. The law actually requires an employer to retain a former employee’s I-9 for one year after the date of termination [3]. For the next 365 days, then, the College is still operating in noncompliance with the law. All the more reason for the College to have allowed the affected workers more than just a few weeks time to provide their relevant documentation.

Thus, if the College and the Board continue to insist that they acted because of the legal risks, the point from my original email remains true: the risk assessment was incomplete.

This leads to one final point: 17 members of Pomona College Community were fired on December 1—some after over two decades of service (perhaps the fact that they hadn’t had to prove their legal status in 20 years explains why it might take more than a few weeks to track down the relevant documents). Many of us consider this outcome unnecessary, easily avoidable, and unjust. For the students, faculty, and staff on campus who sought to prevent this outcome, December 1 marked a sad and disappointing conclusion – but to just one part of the struggle. Those who stood, sat, and camped on behalf of those workers should keep in mind that there is still an opportunity to push for changes in how the Board and College address these types of questions. And I hope that those who agreed with the College’s actions will at least question whether the Board has been as open, forthright, and genuine as it should be in such important matters. After all, as trustees of the College, the Board is obligated to act in the best interests of the Pomona College Community. How can we know if they are fulfilling that obligation without a better understanding of what led them to act in the manner that they did? We have been encouraged by the Board’s supporters to view the matter from the Board’s perspective. But it is difficult to do that absent a willingness on the Board’s part to be transparent, honest, and generous in explaining its position. Moreover, the Board, too, has a responsibility to represent the interests of the Pomona College Community as a whole. To me, that means attempting to see the issue from other perspectives, as well, and engaging in a dialogue before taking controversial actions.

Sincerely,

Michael Teter ‘99

Footnotes:

[1] 8 U.S.C. 1324(b).

[2] Id.

[3] 8 U.S.C. § 1274a.2(b)(2)(A).

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The Student Life: Letter to the Editor: A Response to the Pomona College Board of Trustees

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By MICHAEL TETER

To the Editor:

As a Pomona College alumnus, as well as a recent two-year Visiting Assistant Professor in the Politics Department, I feel compelled to respond to the Board of Trustees’ recent letter to the Pomona College community regarding efforts to verify the legal status of faculty, students, and staff of the College.

At the outset, let me state that I think everyone within the community should take some comfort in the fact that the Board of Trustees is treating this matter with the respect and concern it deserves. Nevertheless, the Board’s letter provides inadequate justification for the actions the College has taken at the Board’s urging, relies on unsupported and incomplete assertions about the potential consequences to the College, and displays an all-too-eager willingness to adopt inclusive resolutions without equal enthusiasm for giving true meaning to the expressed principles.

1. The College’s Actions Lack Adequate Justification

The letter states that the “situation arose following a complaint the Board received earlier this year alleging that it was the policy of the president’s administration not to obtain proper work authorization documentation of College employees, and that no such verification of employees’ legal authorization to work was ever undertaken by the College as required by law.” It then states that based on the “alleged serious violations of federal law,” the Board had a “responsibility to investigate the complaint.”

Without more information, it is impossible to assess the accuracy of these statements. After all, the letter does not specify whether the complaint was anonymous or whether it came from someone with actual knowledge of the College’s hiring and verification practices. You undoubtedly can appreciate the difference between responding to rumors, innuendo, or unsubstantiated claims and investigating supported allegations. At the very least, I hope that the College’s legal counsel advised the Board of the material difference between the two (see Footnote 1).

More importantly, as the letter notes, the complaint focused on the College’s “policy… not to obtain proper work authorization” and “that no such verification of employees’ legal authorization to work was ever undertaken by the College as required by law.” Thus, even if a duty to investigate arose, the focus of that inquiry should have been limited to the College’s policy and practices, not on the status of individual employees. There was therefore no need to review the I-9 forms of each employee of the College. 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.

Tellingly, the investigation revealed that the College’s hiring procedures comply with the law. In other words, the “serious” and specific allegations lacked merit. Thus, had the Board acted in a more restrained and thoughtful manner, this entire episode could have been avoided.

In short, the Board needlessly created the current problem. To seek to justify the College’s actions by referring to a discredited allegation and to federal law is disingenuous.

2. The Board Relied on Unsupported and Incomplete Risk Assessments

The Board stated in the letter that, “Not being in compliance with the law could jeopardize the College’s ability to continue to effectively carry out its educational mission. An employer can be subject to civil fines, criminal penalties, and debarment from participation in federal and state contracts and grants… These risks to the institution were especially noteworthy, given that the government is aggressively enforcing the I-9 laws against employers.”

First, as the Board noted in the letter, the College’s policies and practices conform to existing federal law. This fact alone substantially reduces the jeopardy of fines, criminal sanctions, and loss of federal and state contracts and grants. Moreover, while it is true that the Obama Administration is pursuing a more aggressive approach to enforcing I-9 laws, not a single institution of higher education has been the target of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (ICE). Even a cursory review of ICE’s policy statements reveals that the agency focuses its efforts on employers dealing with “critical infrastructure facilities—airports, seaports, nuclear plants, chemical plants, and defense facilities” (see Footnote 2). As much as we Sagehens may value the College Gates or the new Sontag residence hall, these are not “critical infrastructure facilities.” ICE’s other enforcement focus is on those employers who engage in abusive or exploitative employment practices (see Footnote 3). Here again, Pomona would not track on ICE’s radar—no matter what Workers for Justice might say. In other words, the specter the Board raises of severe consequences for Pomona College’s community if the Board did not take these actions turns out to be more imagined than real.

Additionally, the letter ignores the very real legal risks associated with overzealous employer efforts to verify the status of employees. Subjecting employees to intrusive and arbitrary verifications may violate federal law just as much as failing to verify an employee’s authorization to work. In fact, while not even one college or university has faced an ICE enforcement action, the Department of Justice brought an action against a community college district for going too far in its efforts to verify new employees’ work status. The Maricopa County Community College District was forced to pay over $45,000 in civil fines (and $22,123 in back pay) (see Footnote 4).

The College’s actions may also have violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). As the Board is well aware, many of Pomona College’s employees are currently engaged in an effort to unionize. The facts suggest that many of these very workers were the focus of the College’s I-9 verification efforts. As the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has made clear, undocumented workers are still employees under the NLRA and are therefore protected from unfair labor practices (see Footnote 5). Efforts to intimidate or coerce employees during the unionization process undoubtedly qualify as unfair labor practices. The Department of Labor and the NLRB are taking a much more active role in enforcing the rights of workers than in the past. Therefore, were an employee to lodge a complaint over the College’s recent actions, the NLRB would take the allegation seriously and scrutinize the College’s decision and motives.

Together, this suggests that the Board either inaccurately weighed the risks of its actions or misrepresented those risks to the community.

3. The Board Must Do More to Affirm the College’s Commitment to an Inclusive Environment

The letter highlights the steps taken by the College to treat each affected employee with respect. I do think it is appropriate to acknowledge that the College’s efforts to assist its employees are noteworthy and commendable. But the praiseworthiness of the actions is dampened by the fact that these employees are in peril because of the Board’s unfortunate decision to pursue a misguided, unnecessary, and risky effort. Extending a hand to someone you just knocked down is really the least a person can do.

Reaffirming the College’s commitment to an inclusive environment is an admirable first step. Unfortunately, the action rings hollow without actions to back it up. After all, “commit” requires more than words. It demands deeds. Thus, more laudable than a statement by the Board is a true commitment not to engage in these types of practices in the future and to work to undo the harm done to those members of our community so deeply affected.

Finally, as the Board reminds us in the letter, its role is to be “stewards of the College’s resources and reputation.” But I would hasten to add that the Board’s responsibility is to be not just “stewards,” but good stewards. This means relying not just on the legal advice of outside counsel with no affection for, or affiliation with, Pomona College, but also on considerations of community, fairness, and justice. After all, though those College Gates may not be “critical infrastructure facilities,” they do remind us that our task is to bear our “added riches in trust for mankind.” Even more than the College’s departing graduates, the Board must fulfill this duty. Regrettably, it is the considered judgment of many within the Pomona College community that in this matter the Board has not lived up to its responsibility. I urge it to take immediate remedial action.

Michael Teter PO ’99, Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics ’09-’11

FOOTNOTES:

1 8 C.F.R. 274a.9 (“When the Service receives a complaint from a third party, it shall investigate only those complaints that have a reasonable probability of validity” (emphasis added). The Service has interpreted the regulation’s reasonableness standard to require, at a minimum, the name and address of the complainant, a detailed factual allegation, including the date, time, and place of the potential violation, and the specific conduct alleged to be a violation of employer sanctions.)

2 See Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “Worksite Enforcement,” available at http://www.ice.gov/worksite.

3 Id.

4 U.S. Dept. of Justice, “Justice Department Settles Allegations of Immigration-Related Employment Discrimination Against Maricopa Community College District,” May 16, 2011, available at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/May/11-crt-627.html.

5 National Labor Relations Board, Office of General Consul, Memorandum GC 02-06, July 19, 2002.

Editor’s Note: This letter was also submitted to the Pomona College Board of Trustees and President David Oxtoby.

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The Student Life: Faculty Resolve to Support Workers; Students, Staff Protest Document Checks

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By MAYA BOOTH

At a faculty meeting Nov. 16, Pomona College President David Oxtoby pointed to fears of potential involvement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and reiterated that the college must re-verify the work authorization documents of 84 college employees before Dec. 1. The Pomona College administration has been under fire this week as students, faculty, and staff questioned the college’s decision to ask those employees to meet with the Office of Human Resources to provide valid federal work authorization documents. Opponents of the document reviews expressed their discontent in a vigil Nov. 11, a teach-in event Nov. 14, and a protest and press conference Nov. 16 that attracted local news media.

Responding to questions about whether the approaching deadline would give those employees enough time to obtain copies of the necessary documents and to seek legal counsel, Oxtoby said the administration had decided to set a date that would consider those needs without putting the college at risk of federal intervention.

“A several-week period is enough time to get the documents together,” Oxtoby said. “On the other hand, we were worried about taking too long because the concern was that if this received attention, which it now is—it is now out in the news media and so forth—that we have potential for the ICE to come in and intervene, and that would be much more dangerous to anyone possibly working here who does not have proper documentation.”

Organizing Director for UNITE HERE International Union Noel Rodriguez challenged the administration’s citation of those fears. “This drop-dead date of December 1 is completely arbitrary… They could give them months; they could give them as long as they wanted,” he said.

“We’ve got to remember that they’re checking documents of people who have been at the college for many, many, many years,” Rodriguez added. “And has ICE shown up? No… Of course, they may not show up. But they may show up some point down the road; definitely not by December 1st, which is when the administration wants people to leave if they can’t fix the problems.”

The college’s Media Relations Director, Cynthia Peters, said that the college’s understanding was that “if an employer learns its files are not in compliance, it must respond reasonably and fix the problem as quickly as possible.”

“Given that the allegations in this complaint were specific, concerned a violation of law, and were directed against President Oxtoby’s administration, the Board leadership had an obligation to investigate,” Peters wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “Regardless of whether the government becomes interested in this matter, the law clearly requires employers to be in compliance with the I-9 rules.”

National Immigration Law Center Policy Attorney Emily Tulli said employers were incentivized in recent years to conduct internal audits by an increased number of federal I-9 audits under the Obama administration.

“I think it’s safe to say that the [Obama] administration’s preferred form of worksite enforcement is the I-9 audit process, and one of their goals is to have employers comply with I-9 verification requirements and to incentivize that through publicly auditing employers,” Tulli said. “I think that employers are increasingly worried about immigration enforcement, and whether [President Oxtoby] is being protective of the workers I don’t know, but I think it’s safe to say that employers are generally more fearful of immigration enforcement in the worksite.”

The verification process began in the spring after an employee outside the college administration brought a complaint to the Board of Trustees alleging that President David Oxtoby and the college administration maintained a policy of hiring employees without verifying their employment eligibility. According to Oxtoby, he and the administration were cleared of the allegations after the college hired the law firm Sidley Austin to complete an exhaustive review of all college employees’ work authorization documents, but the audit identified 84 employee files with “deficiencies,” prompting the college to ask each of those employees to provide documents to correct errors or omissions regarding their I-9 forms.

At the faculty meeting, Oxtoby described the series of actions as an “unavoidable chain of legal requirements that [the administration] could not simply stop.”

Pomona professor of Sociology and Chicano/a Latino/a Studies Gilda Ochoa said she was still unsatisfied by the fact that Oxtoby and others had not explicitly cited “the actual law that stipulates that what the school is doing is legal.”

Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) Commissioner of Communications Will Mullaney PO ’12 added that administrators “say they’re federally obligated, and we need to think about what they mean by obligated, and who is obligating them.”

As of Thursday evening, 51 of the 84 cases had been resolved, according to Peters. According to a letter delivered to the identified employees from Assistant Vice President of Human Resources Brenda Rushforth, “Employees who do not provide valid, current documentation by December 1, 2011 will be subject to termination.”

Faculty members said that beyond what legal obligations the college may have had to go forward with the verification process after the deficiencies were identified, the past two weeks have brought to light a larger issue of community and the college’s commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.

“I think we have a moral obligation that really has to propel us forward and not simply to try to say that this is a legal matter, that this is a clerical matter—because we know the kind of fractures that produces in our community and our society,” Professor of History Miguel Tinker Salas said.

The faculty moved at the meeting to adopt a resolution amended from the statement, “We are concerned about the message this review of immigration status sends, particularly its effects on the College climate and our educational mission… We call on the Board of Trustees to assert its commitment to an inclusive environment that welcomes people regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and immigration status.”

This resolution was amended upon its proposal to include several more classifications in the last clause.

The verification process has also caused some students, faculty, and members and supporters of the pro-union organization of dining hall staff Workers for Justice (WFJ) to ask whether the document reviews constitute a form of intimidation towards workers in the midst of a unionization effort.

Faculty members speaking out in opposition of the verification measures pointed to a history of employers using document checks to discourage workers involved in union-organizing activities in a well attended teach-in event on Monday.

“First off, there’s a long history of using immigration status and using the enforcement of immigration laws to counter union organizing campaigns,” Pomona History Department Chair Victor Silverman said at the teach-in.

“The National Labor Relations Act under section 8. (a)(3) says that workers who organize a union or who are trying to organize a union cannot be legally fired or retaliated against in other ways for their union organizing activity,” Silverman said. “The National Labor Relations Board, which oversees the enforcement of this law, and the courts, have said that section 8. (a)(3) applies to checking immigration status during organizing drives.”

Tulli echoed Silverman’s concerns about the history of employers using verifications as a union-busting tactic.

“Generally in our experience, there is a tension between these issues around immigration re-verification and labor organizing,” she said. “So I’m not certain that that’s what occurred here, or that these workers were targeted because of that… But I can say that as a general rule, we have seen employers use re-verification and audit as a tool to break worker organizing or to break-up an established bargaining unit.”

Peters said the audit process was unrelated to the unionization drive.

“Clearly the audit came at a very bad time in terms of if you’ve got a unionizing drive,” she said. “No matter how separate they are, people are going to connect them.”

Speakers at the teach-in, the press conference, and the faculty meeting emphasized the painful consequences this process has had for some community members, as evidenced by emotional testimonies from several college employees at the teach-in.

“Are all complaints investigated?” Ochoa asked in an interview with TSL. “And likewise, was it thoroughly thought out [what] ramifications it would have for the campus culture and for the community at large? I think at different steps things could have been thought through differently.”

“At every single step, there were things that could’ve been much more humanizing about the process,” she added.

Peters said of the reactions expressed at the teach-in event, “I wish there was more understanding that once the complaint was received and deemed serious, then there had to be an investigation and that step led to the next, led to the next, and that the college was doing the best it could to be compassionate to employees and trying to keep personnel matters confidential. I wish that people would believe that, and I didn’t necessarily get that in the room, that there was any benefit of the doubt,” she said.

Ian Gallogly and John Thomason contributed reporting for this article.

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