Students, Workers Protest Pitzer Labor Conditions

#wakeup4workers marks Pitzer’s Free Wall, part of The Claremont Student-Worker Alliance’s call for all of Pitzer’s staff to receive a living wage. (Courtesy of The Claremont Student-Worker Alliance)

The Claremont Student-Worker Alliance spread the hashtag #wakeup4workers around Pitzer College’s campus two weeks ago, marking the ground outside McConnell dining hall and the Free Wall with the club’s logo.

The hashtag brought attention to a campaign by CWSA calling for the college's administration to better serve the needs of workers on campus. CWSA member Thea Piccone PZ ’19 said the group aims to create structural change for workers.

“The Claremont Student-Worker Alliance is a group of workers and students from the 5Cs who are working to broadcast a set of structural changes that are imperative to improving the working conditions put into place by Pitzer’s previous president,” Piccone wrote. “The goal of the #wakeup4workers campaign is to educate our community on the working environment here at Pitzer.”

The campaign comes as the result of a campus climate survey conducted at Pitzer, which outlined wage disparities and suggested that the college is failing to adequately support workers.

The list of demands detailed in the document reflects worker grievances and includes replacing the 36-to-1 president-worker wage ratio with a 15-to-1 wage ratio.

Additionally, the document demands increased transparency in human resources and the establishment of a process for workers to submit formal complaints.

The lowest-paid worker at Pitzer is paid $22,000 a year, according to the campus climate survey, which is below the California poverty line for a family of four. Additionally, not all workers at Pitzer are official Pitzer staff, so not all receive a living wage and benefits.

The survey highlights a number of other ways in which the Pitzer administration has allegedly failed to properly address the needs of workers on campus.

A Pitzer staff member, who requested anonymity because of concerns over repercussions from the administration, wrote in an email to TSL that the campaign is the result of mounting frustration at slow-moving structural change.

"As a staff member, hearing about the #wakeup4workers campaign is fantastic and I believe is a way to address the elephant in the room when it comes to justice for all lower-level staff on campus,” the worker wrote. “We need to be honest and vocal about how slowly structural changes for workers have been moving and stand up for all levels of staff in a public manner at Pitzer."

The staff member wrote that the educational campaign can rally support among students, who have more leeway with the administration than workers do.

“If we don’t do this, then nothing can change, things won't get better. There are already pockets of apathetic staff that have just given up over time,” the staff member wrote. “Things can change and this campaign is meant to open the eyes of students and newer members of our community. There is an obvious lack of communication and a culture of fear and retaliation with the staff and workers at Pitzer and this needs to change."

Pitzer's administration sent a statement to TSL in response to a request for comment:

“Pitzer College values every member of our community," the statement read. "We applaud students’ enthusiasm for sharing our commitment to staff’s well-being.

"In 2010, Pitzer implemented a policy that compensates staff in regular, full- and part-time positions no less than 5 percent above the Los Angeles County Living Wage and increased it to no less than 10 percent above the L.A. County Living Wage in 2014," the statement added. "In addition, Pitzer offers a robust benefits package that includes a 12 percent unmatched retirement saving plan to all faculty and staff employees based on plan eligibility. Pitzer complies with all state and federal labor code regulations and does not knowingly hire undocumented workers."

Pitzer disputed some of the CSWA's claims.

"As addressed through multiple in-person and other communications with CSWA members, who have not authorized representatives for staff members, it is a disappointment that the unsourced generic template document presented by CSWA includes outdated data and inaccurate information and that do not reflect the current state of employment at the College," the statement read. "Pitzer and each branch of our shared governance including Staff Council Representatives, the only official staff branch of the governing body, continue to work diligently together to seek improvements and enhance labor relations for all employees of Pitzer College.”

At Pomona, workers gathered Thursday at 3 p.m. and walked into President David Oxtoby's office to voice concerns about how they are being treated by management and the administration. Oxtoby stood and listened to the workers and thanked them but didn't respond otherwise.