According to a Workers for Justice (WFJ) representative, Pomona College and WFJ have agreed to hold a vote for unionization April 30. Before the vote is held, however, both parties will have to agree on the language of the ballot and establish who will be eligible to vote in the election.
WFJ filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) April 3 to hold a secret ballot election for Pomona dining services workers to vote on unionization. The decision on the part of WFJ to move forward with the vote despite their not having reached a full neutrality agreement with the college marked a massive strategy shift. The dispute over total neutrality has been one of the key factors in delaying a union vote for over three years.
While WFJ had been pursuing the total neutrality agreement to ensure that no anti-union intimidation of workers by Dining Services management could take place, Pomona President David Oxtoby wrote in an e-mail to the student body this week that despite the lack of an official neutrality agreement between WFJ and the college, the administration is promising to keep the voting process fair.
“I want to reaffirm that there will be no union-busting tactics, no anti-union literature, and no one-on-one meetings to discuss unionization,” Oxtoby wrote.
Oxtoby clarified that because there is no official neutrality agreement, the college still reserves the right to address any misinformation about unionization and respond to questions posed to the administration or Dining Services management by dining hall workers.
“As I have said from the beginning, we reserve the right to respond to misinformation, to answer questions that are asked, and to provide information about the progress we have made in our own operations,” Oxtoby added.
The vote could be further delayed if during that time either WFJ or Pomona files a complaint with the NLRB about attempts to influence workers’ votes.
Recently, anti-union flyers appeared outside of Frary Dining Hall and elsewhere on the Pomona campus. The flyer features a graphic of two stick figures, one with a gun to the other’s head and a caption that reads: “Unions cost each worker $70 per paycheck in Union dues. Will you vote for a pay cut?”
In an interview, WFJ representatives countered that UNITE HERE charges its members on average $50 per month, not per paycheck.
WFJ has not yet filed an official complaint with the NLRB about the flyers as a possible source of intimidation (it remains unknown who posted them), but if a claim is filed, the NLRB would launch an investigation to determine whether or not the claim is valid and whether to investigate the incident further.
Despite both the college and WFJ not having reached any independent neutrality agreement, the NLRB enforces its own neutrality rules and strictly prohibits any campaign speech from either pro-union organizers or college leadership within 24 hours of the vote.
The college has acknowledged this regulation as the foundation for its previously proposed neutrality agreements, which WFJ claimed did not extend neutrality for a long enough period of time.
Despite this existing regulation, WFJ is still pursuing the total neutrality agreement they have been proposing since 2011. President Oxtoby’s April 8 e-mail to the student body reiterated that the college will still not be compromising their right to speak out during the period of time before the vote.
Oxtoby added in an e-mail to TSL that the college is not asking any specific neutrality agreement of WFJ to ensure that WFJ or UNITE HERE representatives do not intimidate or pressure workers to vote in favor of a union, although the administration is hoping for a fair process.
“We certainly hope that WFJ and Unite Here will not intimidate workers over the next several weeks before the vote, but we have not been in contact with them since they submitted their petition to the NLRB,” Oxtoby wrote.