Organizers of last week’s Stand With Staff rally presented a petition of nearly 800 signatures to the Budget Planning Advisory Committee (BPAC) on Monday as part of their student-led initiative to garner support for workers’ rights.
The petition comes on the heels of the well-attended rally on Apr. 25 advocating for staff job security as the college looks to slash its budget for next year.
“We had to mobilize a lot of people in a short period of time, and students responded,” said Alvin Sangsuwangul PO ’10, one of the event organizers who presented the document to the BPAC. “Individuals didn’t sign blindly, but were generally curious and wanted to learn about and engage more with issues around the budget.”
The online petition included signatures from eight faculty, eight staff, and 167 alumni, as well as 527 Pomona students, more than a third of the student body. The petition called on the administration to prevent layoffs and wage reductions, maintain safe working conditions, and increase transparency in its budget-making process. It also proposed a progressive system of wage cuts in which top earners making more than $100,000 a year would face salary reductions ranging from five to 15 percent.
“Pomona is not just a business; it has expressed a commitment to social responsibility and to treating all members of its community fairly,” the petition reads. “At this time, Pomona has the opportunity to either act with courage, compassion and integrity or to allow narrow-minded self-interest to divide us.”
President David Oxtoby and the Board of Trustees will hear recommendations from the BPAC next month. The committee is chaired by Treasurer Karen Sisson PO ’79, and includes faculty, staff, and student representatives. Serving as a vehicle for student and faculty opinion in the budgeting process, the BPAC is expected to include the petition in its report to the board when trustees vote to finalize a budget next month.
“It’s good to have voices in the process,” said Sisson. “It’s all part of the process of what we’re hoping to do.”
The administration has already said that it considers layoffs a last resort, and has instead implemented a new voluntary early retirement program that may help reduce salary costs.
“We need to look at reductions in overall staff numbers,” said Oxtoby. “We’re very much trying to avoid layoffs.”
Responding to petitioners’ demands for pay cuts for higher-income employees, Oxtoby said that Pomona must maintain competitive salaries in order to attract and retain top talent.
“We need to pay staff competitively at all levels,” he said. “If we started to make cuts…we may not be competitive nationally. I don’t think it serves our long-term problems.”
Organizers are hopeful that the Stand With Staff event has ignited student interest in workers’ rights, and that participants will continue to voice support for staff as the college decides on budgeting issues in the future.
“The petition may have been presented on Monday, but we still need to continue to spread the word about and critically engage each other on this issue,” said petition organizer Samuel Pang PO ’12. “The best thing we can do to support staff now is to strongly voice our feelings on this issue. If we want to get things done, we need to speak up about it, and that is precisely what our group is doing right now.”