To the Editor, The Student Life, Pomona College:
This March marks two years since members of our Dining Services staff asked for “a fair process to win a union.” I think this is an appropriate time to reaffirm the principles and the position that I have put forward on behalf of the College, and to review some important facts about the negotiations and events of the past two years.
Since receiving the workers’ petitions, the College has been guided by the principles that our employees have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be represented by a union and that they should be able to do so in an atmosphere free from intimidation. We also believe that free speech and open discourse are paramount on our campus and that the only way to ensure that individuals can vote in a manner truly free from intimidation is through a secret ballot election.
I am keenly and painfully aware that other events have become entangled with these issues. Although the work-authorization investigation last fall was certainly not connected to or motivated by the unionization activities, it not only resulted in 17 employees who could not provide the College with valid work authorization documents losing their jobs, but also had a noticeable impact on trust. Misinformation about the College’s motives and actions, as well as misconceptions about the unionization process, have made informed discussion in the community more difficult.
In the interest of clarity, I would like to remind the community of some key facts.
First, under current circumstances, applicable labor laws do not allow Pomona College to file for a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election. Only employees or a certified union can take the necessary first steps toward a petition to the NLRB seeking certification as the employees’ representative.
Over the last two years, there have been many discussions between the College and representatives from a group called Workers for Justice (WFJ), sometimes promising, sometimes disappointing. Last June, almost nine months ago, the College made a good faith proposal to WFJ to facilitate the process toward an election on unionization. In the proposal, the College promised to agree to “total neutrality” during a reasonable period for the collection of union authorization cards and the filing of an NLRB petition for an election. “Total neutrality” means we agreed not to communicate with employees about unionization during this period. Once the petition was filed, we also agreed to set an expedited, firm date for a secret ballot NLRB election.
During the time leading up to the election, the College also agreed that:
· A set number of informational group meetings for dining staff would be scheduled with both WFJ and the administration.
· There would be no one-on-one meetings with employees for the purpose of discussing unionization.
· The College would not hire “union-buster” consultants to conduct an “anti-union campaign.”
· The College would support educational forums with the participation of community members of all points of view.
· Dining Hall Management would not initiate any conversations concerning unionization but would be free to respond to questions.
· The College would reserve the right to distribute written information, particularly in response to misinformation.
· The College would agree to total neutrality for both sides for either the 24 or 48 hours prior to the election.
Since making this proposal, which was rejected last June, the College has not received any counter-proposal from WFJ. The College’s guiding principles remain the same as they were at the start of this process two years ago.
Like many of you, it concerns me that our dining employees have lived with these uncertainties and stresses for more than two years. Our employees have both the right and the power to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be represented by a union, and I will continue to insist on a process that is fair, free from intimidation and consistent with the basic values of this institution.