With budget cuts pending, students have started to question the impact of the financial changes on 5-C staff.
Approximately 145 students attended Stand with Staff Tuesday. The event, which was organized by Stephanie Almeida PO ’11 and Rosa Greenberg PO ’12, gathered students on the lawn in front of the Smith Campus Center for a rally in support of better job security for staff at Pomona College.
“The purpose of Stand With Staff was to get students to think about and to question how Pomona views and treats its service staff not only generally, but particularly now as the college revisits its budget,” said Almeida. “Basically, we wanted to encourage students to express their support for Pomona staff in the face of pending budget cuts.”
Associate Professor of Sociology and Chicana/o Studies Gilda Ochoa, who spoke at the event, said that when the Pomona community considers its core values, it often ignores staff members. She called on the audience to consider ways in which budget cuts may impact workers.
Robin Margolis PO’ 09 then discussed ways in which students can pressure the administration to consider worker issues, encouraging students to ask tough questions at a budget forum that occurred Wednesday and included panelists Pomona President David Oxtoby, Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum, Vice President and Treasurer Karen Sisson, and Associate Dean of Faculty Cynthia Selassie.During the forum, students pressed administrators to take executive pay cuts, and asked for a firm declaration that Pomona will not lay off employees. Both Oxtoby and Sisson responded that although the college was making an effort to protect jobs, they could not guarantee that layoffs would not happen in the future.
Information handed out at the event also reminded students that disparity in pay means that salary freezes will have more of an impact on service workers and questioned whether there has been “discussion of top-level pay cuts.”
Students have already recently been questioning the position and respect allotted to workers and staff at the 5Cs. Stand with Staff follows separate action taken after the firing of Pedro Gonzalez, a dining hall worker who held a job at Claremont McKenna’s Collins Dining Hall for the last nine years.Gonzalez’s family, who resides in Mexico City, was faced with eviction in December and Gonzalez made the decision to return to Mexico City where he was expected to attend a court hearing on Jan. 30.
However, Gonzalez did not follow the correct protocol or fill out the correct paperwork necessary to allow him to miss work without risking his job at CMC and consequently was fired.
Following Gonzalez’s firing, students have shown concern that many staff workers may be unaware of policies and protocol because CMC’s policy manual is written in English, while many staff workers speak only Spanish.
According to Director of Human Resources Susan Cozzitarto, it is CMC’s policy not to disclose any employment records. However in an e-mail she did offer that bilingual instruction and documents in Spanish are regularly provided to workers, adding that “since September 2001, the Human Resources and Career Services Offices have offered an ESL program to employees whose first language is not English. CMC students tutor employees who choose to participate in this training program.”
However, according to Victoria Din CM ’11, president of the Democrats of the Claremont Colleges, the Claremont McKenna worker’s manual has not been updated since 2004 and is written in English.
“A lot of the issues that arose in Pedro’s case arose from a language barrier,” said Din. “This could be prevented with a translation of policy. It would be a huge step that would be beneficial to both workers and the administration so this type of misunderstanding doesn’t occur again.”
Working with the Workers’ Support Committee, the DCC sponsored a petition to “Defend Workers’ Rights—Defend Pedro Gonzalez.” According to Din, over 500 people signed the petition in one night of door-to-door soliciting in the dorms.
The petition condemned CMC for “a lack of sensitivity” and expressed concern that “the resources available to the Spanish-speaking staff are inadequate, both in content and form. The inaccessibility of information regarding emergency leave rules and other regulations make CMC’s unrelenting enforcement unfair and unreasonable.”
Din sent Bon Appetit General Manager Pam Franco, and Cozzitarto an e-mail regarding the petition in hopes of setting up a meeting to discuss possible changes to CMC policy but has not received any response. She said the Workers’ Support Committee and the DCC are still discussing further action.
“I hope the administration would at least be open to discussion,” said Din. “There is easily demonstrated support across the campuses. We would hope that the administration would at least consider changes to the policies and consider reinstating a dedicated worker of nine years, in lieu of what is clearly extenuating circumstances.”
However, according Cozzitarto’s e-mail, “The Human Resources Office has reviewed the Pedro Gonzalez matter and confirms that all appropriate personnel policies and procedures were followed.”