CSWA demonstrations disrupt Pitzer’s Admitted Students Day, demand rehiring

CSWA demonstrated at Pitzer College’s Admitted Students Day over the weekend. (Nhi Nguyen • The Student Life)

On Saturday, April 15, members of the Claremont Student & Worker Alliance (CSWA) organized a series of demonstrations at Pitzer College’s Admitted Students Day. These demonstrations are the latest in CSWA’s campaign to demand that the college hire three former subcontracted dining workers who allege they were laid off due to their union support. 

Stephanie Smith, Alexis Ongpoy and Kevin Ayala — known as the PZ 3 — were laid off by Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO), Pitzer’s subcontracted dining service, last December. CSWA has since organized a student campaign demanding that the college hire the three workers. To advocate for the PZ 3, CSWA students have crashed Board of Trustees meetings, organized several dining hall boycotts and delegated to several administrative offices in the past two months.  

As part of these actions last Saturday, dozens of CSWA members attended several scheduled Admitted Students Day events, where they talked to prospective students and their families about the campaign.

In the afternoon, CSWA also organized a rally at Pitzer’s McConnell Center Apron, right next to the outdoor dining area for admitted students and their families. At the rally, several student organizers, members of Pomona College’s dining hall union and members of the PZ 3 urged admitted students at Pitzer to contact the administrators in support of Pitzer workers. 

“You are the voice that really counts, we’re the customers of this college,” one student speaker said to the crowd. “Everything you say puts pressure on the administration to get people with dependents, with lives, with incomes, with their own stuff going on, back at their jobs.” 

The student urged prospective students to listen to workers and CSWA members about what being at Pitzer College was like, as opposed to the administration. 

“[They] don’t experience what it means to be a student on campus. They don’t know what it is to be a worker on campus,” the speaker said. “So why not ask the people who are here day in and day out, not the people who are here when it’s convenient to them.”

Smith, one of the laid-off BAMCO workers, shared her experiences working at Pitzer during the rally. She told those present at the event that while she was working at Pitzer, she made it her mission to make all the students she met feel at home.

“I’m here to take care of you and to make sure your parents know that you guys are good here at Pitzer [and] that comes from my heart,” Smith said at the rally. “But my heart wasn’t good enough when I put that [union] button on.”

To CSWA member Alex Pedroza HM ’25, the PZ 3 campaign is needed to not only alert future Pitzer students about the reality of the community at Pitzer but also encourage future Pitzer students to get involved even before they come to campus.

“I think getting admitted students and future Pitzer students involved in this fight from the get-go is really, really important in setting a precedent,” Pedroza said. “You can join this community and make a difference in this community before you even get to Pitzer.”

Caleb Quartey, a prospective Pitzer student who attended the rally, said he collected some of the stickers and pamphlets CSWA handed out during admitted students day. 

“It seems like a lot of times, at least within this institution, the allocation of money is kind of unbalanced. And I think [it is]something that [Pitzer] should be more focused on,” Quartey said. “I feel like they can definitely pay [workers] more if they chose to properly allocate the resources, even if [they had] stopped the union from forming.”

Quartey also added that he thought CSWA’s campaign may have discouraged prospective students from choosing to attend Pitzer.

I think that this demonstration probably turned a good amount of people off from the school,” Quartey said. “And I don’t know if that was really the intent because, realistically, how are you supposed to create proper change?”

“Pitzer Assistant Vice President of Communications Wendy Shattuck told TSL that the school acknowledged the demonstrations that had taken place that Saturday and that caring and voicing opinions were part of Pitzer’s identity.

“Activism is a community value at Pitzer, and we respect the right of our community members to protest peacefully,” Shattuck told TSL. “Caring, and voicing opinions, is part of the social responsibility emphasis and the very identity of Pitzer College, and we acknowledge those voices.”

Mariana Duran contributed reporting.

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