Workers Object to “Unfair” Reprimands

A group of approximately 20 dining hall
workers and students crowded into the Pomona College Human Resources Office Oct. 31 as part of a
rally organized by Workers for Justice, an organization of pro-union dining hall workers. The delegation informed Vice President
of Human Resources Brenda Rushforth of burdensome workloads, schedule changes, and a large
number of written reprimands that they said were unfairly distributed among the Dining Services staff.

The main focus of the delegation was to express
dissatisfaction with the large number of warnings issued over the last few
weeks. Warnings are issued for
on-the-job errors, such as tardiness or improper food temperature. 

Flores expressed a concern that the warnings have been directed at workers involved in the negotiation process that has been going on since the Dining Services staff voted to unionize May 3. 

“Maybe [the managers] have a reason to give [the
warnings],” said Crystal Flores, a cook at Frary Dining Hall who served as the main spokesperson during the rally. “But what’s unfair is that
they’re only focusing on a few people. I
have proof of that, because I’ve been taking records of things that aren’t OK, with temperatures and everything. I let the chefs know, and nobody else gets in trouble.”

Warnings given to Frary cook Rolando Araiza were the specific catalyst behind the Oct. 31 protest. He has recently been issued four warnings, which he said are in the process of being disputed, and was told that his job was at stake. 

“I feel like I’m being targeted,” he said. “We don’t want to say that they’re targeting the committee, but the people who are getting the warnings are the people who are on the committee.”

Other complaints included excessive amounts of work placed on too few staff members, and a lack of communication between the staff members and the management. Workers also said that their managers had shifted their schedules suddenly without consulting them.

“There’s a lot of miscommunication,” said Edward Mac, who is also a student through Pitzer College’s New Resources Program. “And because of the miscommunication, we’re not really able to understand what our job is supposed to be, and what we’re supposed to do.” 

Pomona General Manager of Dining Services Glenn Graziano said that he was unaware of the delegation to Human Resources, or of any complaints regarding unfair warnings or schedule changes. He said that there were no changes to the amount of work assigned to employees, and that Dining Services was “fully staffed.”

He added that maintaining proper food temperature—below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for cold items and above 140 degrees Fahrenheit for hot items—was a matter of the utmost importance due to potential health risks; any employee found neglecting food temperature is subject to reprimand. 

“It’s very important that the safety of our students and faculty is being maintained at all times,” Graziano said.

A point of confusion that arose at the delegation concerned who exactly has been issuing the recent warnings. Flores told Rushforth that according to her supervisors, Human Resources was behind the warnings. Rushforth strongly denied this allegation. 

“None of you report to me; you’re not my supervisees; I don’t write the warnings,” Rushforth told members of the delegation. 

Graziano said that an employee’s immediate supervisor was responsible for issuing warnings, although infractions could be pushed further up the chain of authority.

“There’s a procedure in place,” he said. “If a supervisor notices a behavior, he may bring it up to his supervisor. Then the next course of action is to get the person back on track.”

Araiza said that the number of warnings required for termination was unclear. 

“In the past, we’ve had a lot of employees who have been fired after three,” Araiza said. “There’s no exact policy that says how many. The policy basically just says that upon the manager’s request, if they think a person should get fired, they get fired. We’ve asked to clarify that policy.”

He said that Assistant Director of Campus Services Margie McKenna had attempted to shed some light on the issue by clarifying that termination resulted from three warnings in the same category of infraction. Still, Araiza said that it was unclear how long a warning stayed on an employee’s service record or how supervisors might use a recorded infraction when considering an employee for a raise. 

Graziano said that the warnings policy was being discussed as part of the ongoing contract negotiation process. 

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