In a past article, I made clear my position on the card check versus secret ballot debate. For the purposes of this article, we shall cast aside the debate over whether or not the Workers for Justice (WFJ) group has the right goal in mind. Instead, we shall briefly examine whether or not WFJ’s choice to boycott Pomona College dining halls is an effective choice.
First, we should examine the purpose of boycotting the dining halls. According to the Facebook event, students are boycotting “to show continued commitment to reaching a fair Labor Peace agreement” (i.e. card check neutrality). Thus it seems fitting for us to use this as a standard for determining the efficacy of the decision to boycott.
On the count of showing continued commitment, it seems that WFJ’s plan has very much backfired. Until now, students opposing the card check system were well hidden. Those of us with the “minority opinion” just kept our mouths shut and heads low (for the most part). However, I have seen more open challenges to card check and WFJ practices in the past few days than I saw in the last few months. Moreover, WFJ has alienated a large population of Pomona consisting of people who, while sympathetic to the workers’ plight, have little desire to get involved. By instituting a boycott, WFJ has forced even the most apathetic of students to “choose sides”—a fact that has not been received well by many.
Though as of my writing this, the boycott has not yet occurred, I am confident that many of the apathetic and closet secret ballot supporters will eat off campus to avoid the crowd of workers and students in front of the dining hall aiming to “let students know about the boycott”—i.e. intimidate students. (Unless they genuinely believe that anyone doesn’t know about the boycott. As if we can go three hours, let alone three days, without checking Facebook.) Even I am seriously considering ordering Mixed Bowl just to avoid the social ramifications of being unfairly labeled as someone who “doesn’t stand with the workers.”
“But Ashvin! It seems like you’re saying that pressuring the apathetic and anti-card check students not to eat at Frank or Frary is not good for the WFJ movement. Shouldn’t it make the WFJ movement look stronger?”
Perhaps it will make WFJ look strong for a day. However, those who felt unfairly pressured by the boycott will not forget. I suspect that in the future, the voices of those frustrated with WFJ’s quest for card check will be heard even more loudly. If WFJ thinks it is seeing members of the opposition come out of the woodwork now, it is in for an unpleasant surprise next time it tries to mobilize the student body. For every person who openly opposed the boycott on the internet, I have met at least two who secretly harbor discontent. This silent, frustrated population will only subject itself to “keeping their heads down” for so long.
While on the surface, the boycott might appear to show student unification behind the WFJ movement, the administration only need look a bit closer to see the fractures it has created.
A lot of people are tired: Some are tired of the rallying, and others are tired of the pressuring. But I think really, most people are tired of the whole damn thing, and the administration would have to be blind not to see it.