Professors Ask Pomona to Rehire Workers, Pay Application Fees

In light of a new federal program that could provide temporary legal status to some fired Pomona College workers, 32 Pomona faculty members called on the administration Saturday to reimburse former employees for the program's application costs and rehire them if they obtain valid work permits. 

In an e-mail to Acting President Cecilia Conrad, the faculty members reaffirmed a faculty resolution, adopted Dec. 7, that called on the college to provide jobs, back pay and compensation for reasonable legal and document-related expenses to any of the 17 fired workers who could obtain valid work authorization. They wrote that their current request is consistent with the Dec. 7 resolution, as well as a resolution passed Oct. 12 by the Associated Students of Pomona College Senate, which indicated support for the Dec. 7 resolution. 

“There’s been an effort to bring new pressure to bear ... to demand that these people get support, that they get rehired if they get work authorization,” said Pomona history professor Victor Silverman, who signed the e-mail. 

The 17 workers were fired last December for lack of work authorization. The administration promised to rehire any of these former employees if they could show valid work authorization documents by June 30, 2012. 

None of the workers met that deadline, but the federal program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), whose creation was announced in June, may allow some former Pomona employees to gain work authorization. DACA makes it possible for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to receive deferred action—a temporary license to stay in the country—if they are under 31 years of age and meet other criteria. 

Christian Torres, one of the fired workers, said that he has applied for deferred action. At least one other worker is eligible for deferred action through the program, said Isabel Juarez PO ’13, a supporter of Workers for Justice (WFJ), the pro-union group of Pomona dining hall workers. 

Last month, the administration agreed to rehire any of the workers fired last December who obtain work authorization through DACA, provided that their positions are still vacant, Conrad said. Former employees whose positions have been filled will be given priority if they apply for other positions for which they are qualified.

This agreement “was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t go far enough,” Silverman said. 

The 32 faculty members are calling on the college to rehire former employees who obtain work authorization, regardless of whether their positions are open. Their e-mail also asks that the college cover the $465 application cost for any of the workers who apply for deferred action.

In an e-mail to TSL, Conrad wrote that no one has yet approached the college to seek reimbursement for applying for deferred action through DACA. 

“If an individual has a specific issue they would like to discuss related to their ability to return to employment at Pomona, we would of course want to hear from him or her and consider that request,” Conrad wrote.

Juarez and other students who work with WFJ continue to gather signatures for a petition to demand that the administration guarantee jobs for any of the workers who obtain work authorization.

“Even if one or two of them could come back, it would definitely be valuable,” Juarez said. “For them it’s their own job, it’s their livelihood, it’s the community where they’ve lived for so many years.”

“For the college, to rehire them and to guarantee them that position, it’s a way to heal,” she added. “For the community to be able to move forward, you want to see concrete steps that are being taken to rectify what happened last year.”