Since the Pomona College Dining Services staff voted to unionize on May 3, Pomona administrators and union delegates from UNITE-HERE Local 11 have been in contract negotiations.
Vice President and Treasurer Karen Sisson said that she could not comment directly on the contract negotiations while they are in progress. However, “they hold a very positive atmosphere,” she said.
Dining hall workers who were part of the unionization effort in previous months also said that the negotiations have been positive.
However, some are raising concerns about working conditions and relationships with their managers.
“We’re very surprised,” said Frary Dining Hall Cook Vincent Gamalinda. “The negations are going well, but when we go back to the kitchen it’s a whole different story.”
On Sept. 27, a small group of dining hall workers, along with students and family members, gathered at the Pomona College Human Resource Office to tell Assistant Vice President of Human Resources Brenda Rushforth some of their complaints regarding managerial treatment of workers.
Rushforth was not present to receive the worker’s complaints. The dining hall workers then planned to return on Monday afternoon, but later decided against it.
“We discussed it with our union representative [Manuel Cortez],” Gamalinda said. “We determined that we had already gotten our point across.”
Rushforth said that her assistant informed her that the workers would return, but as they have not returned she was unaware of the specifics of their complaint.
In an interview with TSL, Gamalinda and fellow Frary Dining Hall workers Edward Mac and Crystal Flores described what they said was a misuse of managerial authority in the dining halls. They also discussed alleged unsatisfactory working conditions, including the college’s decision to hire temporary workers from a firm called Labor Ready rather than hire full time staff.
“Our staff is pretty well qualified from what I’ve experienced, but the people from Labor Ready are not,” Flores said. “[Management] has told us that we’re fully staffed already, but how can you tell us that when you have five people from Labor Ready with full-time hours?”
“It’s usually someone different so you have to train them every day, and it just seems that every day there’s something more on top of our workload,” she said. “We feel like we’re being very much pushed to the limit.”
According to Pomona Dining Services General Manager Glenn Graziano, the temporary workers were originally brought in to address some of the workers’ previous complaints about understaffing.
“The temporary laborers were hired in order to improve the working conditions in the dining halls,” Graziano said. “It allows for the workers to do less work. And it’s not even [the workers] that are training them—it’s the managers.”
Flores, who was present at last Friday’s gathering, seemed conscious of the way that outsiders might view their complaints.
“It might seem like we’re complaining out of nowhere but we’re really not,” Flores said. “We want to be peaceful, we want to come to work, we want to enjoy our time at work, and it’s nearly impossible sometimes.”