Tag Archives: Workers for Justice

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 Claremont Portside: Unions, Rep. Chu, and Community Rally For Workers for Justice

From The Claremont Portside: Link to original article

By JEREMY MERRILL, JONATHAN RICE, AND JEANY LARSEN

“I love working at Pomona. Being here makes me feel a sense of possibility,” said Rolando Araiza, a food service worker at Pomona College. “All we have wanted was for our voices to be heard.”

But, Araiza said, “I never knew how hard it would be to have my voice heard, but the College does not want our voices to be heard.”

On Friday, workers, clergy, students and community members from Los Angeles and the Inland Empire rallied at Pomona in support of dining hall workers who, like Araiza, are seeking a union and in support of 17 workers who were fired in December after they were unable to show authorization to work in the United States.

In a fact sheet distributed by Pomona’s Director of Media Relations Cynthia Peters, Pomona says that it only re-audited employees’ work authorization documents because “a complaint was made […] alleging it was a policy of the President and administration not to verify work authorization documents as required by law.” Workers who had been hired prior to the start of Pomona President David Oxtoby’s tenure in 2003, were nevertheless asked to show their work authorization documents. Some of the fired workers had worked for Pomona for over twenty years. 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 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 Student Life: César Chávez Day Rally Draws Hundreds in Support of Workers

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By ANNA PETKOVICH AND JEFF ZALESIN

Hundreds of students, workers, immigrant rights advocates and union organizers gathered at Pomona College on March 30 in support of the dining hall workers’ efforts to unionize. The rally, which came in the wake the controversial firing of 17 Pomona employees in December, was organized by Workers for Justice (WFJ), UNITE-HERE Local 11 and other labor groups.

The protesters called for the Pomona administration to rehire the 17 fired workers and to commit to neutrality in WFJ’s union-organizing campaign. UNITE HERE Local 11 leaders estimated that more than 800 supporters attended the rally.

“Today is César Chávez day, which is a special day, and that’s why we want to highlight that what he stood for was to protect all workers, no matter their immigration status, and to do the right thing,” said Tom Walsh, President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “We believe it was wrong for the college to respond in this way. It’s gone against all the traditions of Pomona College.”

The event culminated in what the organizers called a “Dining Hall in the Streets,” with lunch cooked and served by union members from outside Claremont. It also included a march from Shelton Park in the village to campus, musical performances and speeches by WFJ supporters and Congresswoman Judy Chu, Democrat of California. Continue reading

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Inland Valley Daily Bulletin: Rally supports fired Pomona College workers

From The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin: Link to original article

By LORI CONSALVO

CLAREMONT – Months after the firing of 17 Pomona College dining hall workers, hundreds of people came to downtown to protest the action.

A number of organizations, along with students and community members, protested the decision by rallying at Shelton Park in downtown Claremont and then marching through campus chanting “If you throw us out, we’ll come back” in Spanish.

“It’s an injustice what they’re doing to their employees,” said Mary Lou Rodriguez, an Ontario resident who joined the march.

Pomona College on Dec. 2 fired the cafeteria workers after an investigation into their work status.

The workers were fired after they could not provide proof of legal eligibility to work in the United States. The action came following complaints the college was not checking such eligibility of workers as required by federal law.

Some of those workers had worked at the college for decades.

“They demanded workers who served for years to show documents. Three weeks later, they fired the workers who didn’t reproduce their documents,” said Leigh Shelton, communication coordinator for Unite Here.

Protestors called upon the college to restore peace on campus, obtain a pledge of neutrality and rehire the workers who were fired.

“Regarding the stated goals of the event, that the college `sign a pledge of neutrality’ and `re-hire the 17 fired workers,’ Pomona College has already pledged to rehire any of the 17 former employees who present Human Resources with the work authorization documents required by law, by June 30, 2012,” according to a statement from college officials.

Cynthia Peters, director of media relations for Pomona College, said the firings had nothing to do with the worker’s desire to form a union, as some have suggested.

“The college’s position has been guided by the principles that our employees have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be represented by a union and that they should be able to do so in an atmosphere free from intimidation,” according to the statement.

Erica Reiss, a third year student at Pomona College, and a group of her friends showed up to show their support and urge to school to do what they say is right.

“For us, it would mean we could be proud of the college we love so much,” Reiss said. “We really care about our school being honest and consistent.”

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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 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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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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