Tag Archives: The Huffington Post

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 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 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 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.”

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