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December 6, 2022

Over 40 students protest alleged Pitzer intimidation incident before union certification election

UNITE HERE! has filed at least four Unfair Labor Practice charges against Pitzer in the past year.

Nina Ariany
Courtesy of Mara Halpern

Over 40 students and several Pitzer workers delegated to Pitzer administrators on the afternoon of Nov. 29, a day after a Pitzer worker was reprimanded by managers in an alleged incident of anti-union intimidation. Pitzer officially rescinded the worker’s warning on Dec. 2.

The delegation came less than two weeks before the upcoming Pitzer union decertification election on Dec. 9. Though a majority of Pitzer dining and facilities workers signed cards authorizing a union in August, and Pitzer voluntarily recognized UNITE HERE! Local 11 as the exclusive bargaining representative of the workers by Sep. 5, the decertification vote will require another majority vote by workers to preserve the union.

The Nov. 29 delegation was sparked by an incident on Nov. 28, in which a Pitzer facilities worker reported that they were isolated by four managers and given an official warning. The worker, who asked to remain anonymous in this article to prevent retaliation, said they believed the warning was an illegal intimidation tactic.

“Yesterday I received a written warning stating all kinds of wrongful accusations toward me: behavioral issues, of which I have never even heard my lead or supervisors ever bring to my attention,” the worker said at the delegation. Because she has been active in the Union campaign, the worker said she “believe[s] that this is a tactic to intimidate our workers.”

Organized by the Claremont Student Worker Alliance, the delegation party gathered at 2:30 PM and attempted to protest to Pitzer Senior Director of Facilities Mark Crawbuck, President Jill Klein and Human Resources staff.

In particular, students at the delegation pointed out that the warning could be an Unfair Labor Practice by Pitzer as recognized by the National Labor Relations Board, which would be a violation of federal law. UNITE HERE! Local 11 has filed at least four ULP charges against Pitzer since May.

“The whole student body, we’re very aware of this because this is a violation of federal labor law, and the workers know their rights and we know their rights,” said Cameron Quijada SC ’25 at the delegation.

The delegation is an effort to hold Pitzer accountable to their neutrality agreement, said Will Warrick PZ ’24.

“Again, we’ve gone into delegations in the past, trying to hold Pitzer to their legally binding agreement. We as students are going to come show out and support again,” Warrick said at the delegation.

Pitzer managers officially rescinded the worker’s warning on Dec. 2, which CSWA celebrated as a “win” in an Instagram post put out the same day.

Crawbuck was present in his office when the delegation party arrived, hearing out four delegation speakers, including a worker, before returning to his office.

Both the President and the HR offices were empty upon the delegation’s arrival. A student attempted to call the phone number posted on the door of the HR office, which was the same as the number listed on Pitzer’s HR website, but the line was disconnected. A student also called Pitzer Associated Vice President of Human Resources and Payroll Services Deanna Caballero directly, leaving a voicemail message when she did not pick up.

Pitzer Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Community Relations Jim Marchant was present in an adjacent office, but when students attempted to speak to him, he exited the building claiming to be late for an off campus meeting, saying to students, “I respect the workers.”

But the administrators’ response during the delegation left students questioning if that respect was really there.

“There was such dissonance between [Marchant’s] words and his actions,” Warrick said. “His last words were ‘please don’t block my car,’ with no comment on Pitzer’s violation of federal law.”

Nevertheless, the delegation built student support and momentum ahead of the Dec. 9 decertification vote.

“It feels really good going up,” Quijada told Undercurrents after the delegation. “I think we’re really strong as a group and we’re a strong community that has the ability to hold admin accountable.”

The Pitzer union is the first at the Claremont Colleges to include facilities as well as dining staff. The decertification election is especially important because of the effects it will have on labor fights elsewhere, Halpern said.

“At the 5Cs, but also in the Inland Empire, the fights are incredibly interconnected. For example, Pomona workers are working on getting their raises…a loss at Pitzer emboldens Pomona’s administration to take more from their workers,” Halpern 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.

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