As detailed on the front page of this week’s issue, dining service worker Emilio Flores was recently fired by Pomona College. According to the administration, allegations were brought against him, a full investigation was conducted, and the administration subsequently had no choice but to fire Flores. Workers for Justice (WFJ), the pro-union group of Pomona College dining hall employees, tells a different story in a letter they delivered to Vice President Karen Sisson’s office Tuesday, Mar. 2. The letter calls Mr. Flores’s termination a “great injustice” and claims that there was “no investigation in which both workers and managers had a voice.”
The allegations brought against Mr. Flores were presumably very serious. The involuntary termination of food service employees happens very rarely at the college. One would assume that the allegations in question were serious enough to warrant such an action, and that the allegations were proven true beyond a reasonable doubt before the decision to terminate Flores was made. Indeed, we would have very little faith in our administration if this were not the case.
WFJ has made serious allegations of its own. Besides questioning the methods and thoroughness of the investigation, the Mar. 2 letter implies that Flores was fired without reason: “We understand that this is the policy that Pomona College has for the workers in its dining halls—we can be fired without cause.”
The letter concludes: “Examples such as this one only motivate us to continue in our struggle for a fair and democratic process to form a union here at the college.”
WFJ enters very dangerous territory when it conflates Mr. Flores’s termination with its struggle to form a union of dining hall workers at the college. If WFJ could prove that the administration did fire Flores without cause, then it would be justified in citing this as an example of the maltreatment of dining hall workers at the college. Until that point, however, we cannot help but see this as a misguided attempt to misappropriate the unfortunate termination of one worker.
In other words, WFJ should first demonstrate that Flores was fired for unproven allegations. Then and only then can it begin to make the case that the incident illustrates the need for a union of food service workers at Pomona.
We understand the tremendous challenges that WFJ faces in such an endeavor. The administration is prohibited from revealing details of specific allegations and investigations, and, of course, it has huge advantages in terms of resources and communication. Understandably, WFJ wants to clear the name of a long-time co-worker, friend, and family member, and we support all their efforts to do so. However, if WFJ members and supporters are going to make allegations that call into question the ethics of administrators, they must provide evidence if they want these claims to be taken seriously.
If you would like to read the full text of the letter WFJ brought to the administration, it can be found athttp://www.workersforjustice.org/5.html.