Tag Archives: Opinion

The Huffington Post: Turning Oppression into Power: Fighting Pomona College and Community Division

From The Huffington Post: Link to original article

By LAURA E. ENRIQUEZ

Ever since graduating from Pomona College in 2008, I have proudly declared my connection to the college. When people compare their colleges and mascots, I am happy to say I am a sagehen, our odd yet loveable mascot, and even have a sagehen stuffed animal in my office. When Pomona announced their revised policies towards undocumented students, I was even more proud. My alma matter was one of the growing number of higher education institutions that was tackling immigration issues and doing the socially just thing — accepting and funding undocumented students. However, over the past few years, I have become increasingly ashamed of my connections to Pomona College as they resisted unionization efforts by the dinning hall employees and fired seventeen undocumented workers.

I have received letters, emails, and phone calls from both sides trying to convince me which is right or wrong. Pomona has erupted in controversy; a lot more controversy than when they announced their new policy regarding funding undocumented students. Pomona used to turn a blind eye when it came to undocumented students and undocumented workers. But now, they have adopted opposing policies: support undocumented students and turn their backs on undocumented workers who have dedicated years of service. Why? Continue reading

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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 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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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 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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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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The Huffington Post: Pomona Firings Show the Paradox of Immigrant Labor Organizing

From The Huffington Post: Link to original article

By NATHAN ROBINSON

As the New York Times tells it, the firing of 16 Pomona College dining hall staff over alleged documentation violations appears to be a story about the harsh policies facing America’s undocumented workers. But it is also a story about labor, and the growing difficulty of organizing for improvement in working conditions among those most vulnerable to exploitation. The Pomona workers’ situation illustrates the need not only for humane reforms in immigration policy, but the need for sensible national labor policies generally, beginning with a revival of the moribund Employee Free Choice Act. Continue reading

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The Claremont Progressive: Critique of the Extended Vigil: Building a Stronger Movement

From The Claremont Progressive: Link to original article

By SAMUEL PANG

As the first month of this semester draws to a close, to many, the campus has returned to a state of normalcy; the weather has been pleasant, the jabs at CMC have been plentiful, and ultimate Frisbee continues to imperil pedestrians on Marston Quad. The events of last semester, the tents, the firings, the struggles, have been all but forgotten beneath the braying of first years agonizing about the long trek to Frary, being a sponsor, and the lack of snack on South Campus. Many scoff at the idea of bringing these issues back into focus, insisting instead the past is past and what is done cannot be changed. While it may be easy to forget the past, history is power, and with the experiences of marginalized communities already silenced in the dominant historical narrative, we cannot let the struggle of the 17 fired workers be forgotten. In continuing this struggle, though, there also needs to be space for critical self-reflection in order to build on what has gone well and rethink what could have been more effective; my critique fits squarely into this space. As a supporter of both the extended vigil and Workers for Justice, I believe the extended vigil was a necessary action in solidarity with the workers fighting for their jobs, but the strategies and tactics used could have better supported their struggle. Continue reading

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The Claremont Progressive: (still) in the spirit of a welcoming and inclusive campus environment

From The Claremont Progressive: Link to original article

Dearest Board of Trustees:

hello Claremont Progressive readers! my name is frank sánchez, and i am in my third year at Pomona College majoring in Gender and Women’s Studies and minoring in Music. i am one of several students who came together last semester to plan, organize, and participate in the extended vigil outside of Alexander Hall, which was held in response to the letters requesting work documents that were distributed to 84 Pomona employees and the subsequent firing of 17 individuals. i have been asked to write a reflection on the vigil with close to a month-and-a-half’s worth of hindsight. because i feel exhausted after being forced to navigate virtually unnavigable formal channels of communication, i have decided to write in a somewhat informal manner. the following poem/letter/whatever is an attempt to express my views on the experience(s) of last semester and what i hope will continue out of them. i want to emphasize that the opinions expressed in this piece are exactly that, opinions (more specifically, mine), and should not be misconstrued as representative of the thoughts of any other vigil organizers or participants. Continue reading

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LA Weekly: Pomona College Caught in ‘Wave of Anti-Immigrant Hysteria,’ Says Professor

From LA Weekly: Link to original article

By SIMONE WILSON

​The illegal-immigration debate is on fire at Pomona College in far-east L.A. County.

“You’d think that if any place was going to be a safe haven for immigrants, it would be at colleges and universities,” says Peter Dreier, a professor at Occidental College in L.A. proper. “But that doesn’t seem to be the case at Pomona College. They’ve joined in that wave of anti-immigrant hysteria.”

Dreier serves as a talking head in a new mini-documentary about the controversy produced by labor union Unite Here Local 11… which represents workers at Pomona. Here’s why the union is so angry, from its original news release in early December: Continue reading

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