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April 8, 2023

La Verne dining hall union to votes to strike, picket alongside Claremont and Whittier workers

Pomona’s contract set the standard for dining worker wages and benefits in the area, Union representative Arun Ramakrishna PZ ’22 said.

Undercurrents staff
Whittier and Claremont workers joined La Verne dining workers in their picket in front of dining halls. Photo by Samson Zhang

On Feb. 28, Bon Appetit Management Company (BAMCO) dining workers at the University of La Verne voted to strike after negotiations for better pay and working conditions fell through. 17 out of 19 workers voted in favor of the strike, with one vote abstaining.

The vote came on the heels of a contract win by Pomona dining workers that saw the base wage raised to $25 per hour and amidst ongoing arbitration for Pitzer dining and facilities workers’ first union contract. Whittier College, Pomona, Pitzer and ULV workers are all represented by UNITE HERE! Local 11.

On March 8, La Verne union workers picketed in front of a campus dining hall, holding signs demanding “fair contracts” and the ability to “retire with dignity.”

Seven dining workers from nearby Whittier College, who work under a BAMCO contract with the same terms and are also represented by Local 11, were present at the picket in support, alongside Pomona and Pitzer workers and Claremont students.

Dining halls at La Verne have been severely understaffed since the pandemic, according to a La Verne morning barista Cora Hammons, with only nineteen workers employed to serve a student population of more than 2,000. Hammons attested to how workers are expected to “do the job of two, three people,” with the problem exacerbated by new workers being inadequately trained.

“It’s been a constant struggle of having new workers who aren’t getting the proper training. Because there’s not a lot of people who have the knowledge to train…there’s not a lot of time for actual training, they just throw you in there,” Hammons said.

In the face of stalled negotiations, La Verne Catering Lead Joe Duguay said he hopes the picket will push BAMCO to take workers’ demands into consideration more.

“We’re hoping that the walk out will encourage Bon Appetit to negotiate with the Union to increase wages to a livable wage and add retirement benefits,” he said.

The contract fights at La Verne are strongly tied to those at Pomona, Pitzer and Whittier Colleges, organizers said. All four “are fighting the same fight, essentially, for higher wages and dignity and respect,” and build off of each other’s momentum, said CSWA La Verne subcommittee lead Luna Romero PZ ’26.

Romero also spoke to the differences in organizing between the Claremont Colleges and La Verne, a much larger commuter university.

“CSWA is solidified as a club….it’s somewhat militant, we could easily mobilize people. At La Verne we’re at ground zero. Only now are people becoming aware of the labor movement,” she said.

Union representative Arun Ramakrishna PZ ’22, who is also the representative for Pomona, Pitzer, and Whittier College workers, added that the contract Pomona workers won in January directly raised the bar for the other schools’ negotiations.

“The Pomona strike was very useful for setting a standard across the industry and across the region for what folks deserve and what the minimum we should expect from these employers for food service workers,” he said.

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Thanks for reading Undercurrents

Undercurrents reports on labor, Palestine liberation, prison abolition and other community organizing at and around the Claremont Colleges.

Issue 1 / Spring 2023

Setting the Standard

How Pomona workers won a historic $25 minimum wage; a new union in Claremont; Tony Hoang on organizing

Read issue 1