October 21, 2022
Strike has not yet started, will begin at negotiating committee’s call; CSWA will organize student boycott
Pomona dining workers voted Thursday 84-7 to reject Pomona College’s contract proposal and authorize a strike. The vote comes after the administration’s refusal to grant the workers the $28/hour wage they say is necessary to live and support their families around Claremont.
The strike will not start immediately, but can start as soon as the workers’ negotiating committee call for one.
During the strike, workers will form a picket line outside of Frank and Frary dining halls and discourage students from crossing. Members of the Claremont Student Worker Alliance (CSWA) will also mobilize students to boycott Pomona dining halls and join the picket lines.
The strike authorization vote was an important way to show “how strong the workers are and how much support they already have for the strike,” said Francisco Villaseñor PO ’25.
“The weak attempts that Pomona has made to negotiate with the workers so far is why we see such a strong majority of workers being in favor of the strike. Because they’re not having their demands be met, or really feel like Pomona’s making an honest attempt to negotiate with them, this is the next step that needs to be taken,” Villaseñor said.
In an interview with The Student Life after the vote, Marie Ocampo, a caterer and baker for Pomona and member of the negotiation committee, pointed out administrators’ disconnect with the experiences of workers.
“They don’t see this as poverty because they see us as the help,” Ocampo told TSL. “I’d love for them to do an average day here, a 10-12 hour shift on their feet. Cutting, peeling and cutting 250-pound bags and carrots or peeling and putting to the chopper 150 pounds of potatoes…I’d love to see them do that and then come back to me.”
Workers placed ballots in boxes at Frank and Frary dining halls throughout the day. More than a dozen CSWA members acted as witnesses for the sealing of boxes and counting of ballots to prevent interference.
Voting closed and union representatives counted ballots around 4:45 PM in Frary, announcing the result to a room full of workers and students in support.
After ballots were counted, Ocampo emphasized to gathered workers and students the unity that the vote reflected.
“I’m just so moved with all the overwhelming support that we have from the students, from my coworkers. We all are united, we all want the best for each other so we can all have better lifestyles with our families,” she said. “I’m proud to be with my coworkers because of the job that we do every day. We put in our heart and soul when we make food for you guys…I’m proud to be here and to be united with all my coworkers and having you guys here to support us.”
An hour after ballots were counted, the Associated Students of Pomona College passed a resolution supporting the dining workers’ strike and calling for a student boycott during the strike.
The resolution reflected students’ support for workers, Villaseñor said.
“We consistently are able to call hundreds of students at our rallies, and we have dozens upon dozens of students at every single CSWA meeting. So clearly there is popular support for the workers and there is support for them to get the wages that they deserve,” he said.
As the strike approaches, Villaseñor anticipates more “anti-union, anti-labor” messages from Pomona College.
“It’s important that we as students make sure that we keep one another well informed about what is happening and that we don’t buy into the messages that Pomona might send out,” he said.
Issue 1 / Spring 2023
Setting the Standard
How Pomona workers won a historic $25 minimum wage; a new union in Claremont; Tony Hoang on organizingRead issue 1