The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) informed Pomona College this week that it will issue a formal complaint over two claims associated with unfair labor practice charges that were made on behalf of workers in Pomona’s dining halls earlier this semester, according to a statement issued by the college on Nov. 28. After conducting an investigation into the two charges, which were made on Aug. 4 and Sept. 8, the NLRB informed Pomona in October that it would issue a complaint if the college did not settle the charges before Nov. 25. When Pomona did not settle, the NLRB informed the school that it would schedule a hearing at a yet-to-be-determined date to further investigate the charges, which could result in an order to cease and desist from the alleged unfair labor practices if the college is found guilty of wrongdoing.
The first charge, which was issued on Aug. 4, alleged that a former Pomona dining hall employee was unlawfully terminated due to his involvement in unionizing activities and unlawfully excluded from a meeting between Pomona administrators and Workers for Justice (WFJ) representatives. It also took issue with a college policy restricting interactions between employees and non-employees in the dining halls (see coverage in Nov. 11 issue of The Student Life).
The second charge, issued on Sept. 8, alleged that a different Pomona dining hall employee was told by a supervisor that he was denied a promotion because he wore a pro-union button on his uniform.
After investigating the charges, an NLRB agent found no fault on the part of the college regarding the first two claims of the Aug. 4 charge or the claim that the employee related to the Sept. 8 charge was denied a promotion for his involvement in unionizing activities. However, the NLRB informed the college that it would file a complaint over some aspects of the policy restricting interactions between employees and non-employees, and, due to disputes over the validity of the claim made in the Sept. 8 charge, that it would further investigate this charge as well, unless the college chose to settle.
According to Director of Media Relations Cynthia Peters, the college attempted to negotiate a settlement for the issues raised over the Aug. 4 charge, but the NLRB would not allow them to settle only one of the charges. According to Peters, if the college settled both cases, it would imply that certain events that the college maintains did not take place did in fact occur.
“[The NLRB] would not settle the one without settling the other,” Peters wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “The College could not agree to settle the September claim, because in doing so, the College would be tacitly admitting that such a statement was made, when in fact it was not.”
According to the college’s Nov. 28 statement, the NLRB will set a hearing date before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to review the aspects of the two charges with which the NLRB agent took issue during her investigation.
“[T]he ALJ will hear and consider evidence and legal arguments submitted by the NLRB and the College and render a decision as to whether the conduct as alleged took place and, further, whether it constituted a violation of the National Labor Relations Act,” the statement read.
As the charges were filed on Aug. 4 and Sept 8, they were not filed in relation to Pomona College’s employment authorization reviews that were announced on Nov. 7.
Despite the NLRB’s notification to the college that it would move forward with scheduling a hearing date, no official statement from the NLRB has been released, and the school could still settle the charges. According to NLRB protocol, the parties involved in an unfair labor practice dispute can reach a settlement both before and after a formal complaint is issued, which would eliminate the need for further investigation.
Frary Dining Hall chef and WFJ leader Christian Torres, who made the allegation detailed in the Sept. 8 charge concerning comments about his pro-union button, said he had received no updates from Pomona College or NLRB concerning potential settlement of the charges.
“I have not heard anything yet about my case,” he said.