University of La Verne dining hall workers vote to authorize a strike, 5C students organize support

(Hannah Weaver • The Student Life)

University of La Verne dining hall workers voted on Feb. 28 to authorize a strike for the first time in the university’s history.  

ULV’s workers are organized under UNITE HERE Local 11, the same labor union that has represented the dining hall workers at Pomona College since 2010. ULV has been unionized since 2013

100 percent of the unionized ULV workers present voted in favor of the strike authorization, with 17 out of the 18 ULV workers part of the bargaining unit voting yes and one abstaining. 

Over the last year, ULV workers have organized multiple delegations in attempts to communicate their demands to the management team and negotiate a new contract for fairer wages. However, they have largely been dismissed and allegedly ignored by management, according to labor organizer and ULV student worker Stephen Gilson ULV ‘25. 

The Claremont Student Workers Alliance (CSWA) has been actively supporting ULV workers and students throughout the process.

At the beginning of last semester, CSWA reached out to student organizers at ULV such as Gilson to encourage student workers to start their own alliance group, according to Luna Romero PZ ‘26. However, ULV’s group did not gain much traction after their first meeting in fall of last year. 

Last semester, the ULV union workers won $40,000 worth of back pay for employees who never got their raises during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Gilson stated that the union has had about five negotiations in total. Their original demands in September were for $22 an hour, but they raised it to $25 to maintain a living wage in Los Angeles County. 

According to Gardner, there has been no response from dining hall management nor the university’s administration despite workers’ delegations talking with them. 

“They’re definitely well aware of what’s going on with the workers,” Gardner said. “And there hasn’t been an acceptable response or change in behavior.”

This semester, CSWA has contributed to the ULV workers organizing through flyering and canvassing. They also attended delegations and the strike certification vote.

“Because both of these schools are under the UNITE HERE Local 11, although CSWA emphasizes external organizing, building off each other’s fights and building coalition support is really important,” Romero said. 

Simone Gardner PZ ’25 said that CSWA has been visiting ULV’s campus to spread information about the workers’ situation. 

CSWA has also been circulating a petition that calls on the university to meet workers’ demands and show solidarity with workers by agreeing to not cross the picket line at an upcoming strike. 

According to Romero, CSWA currently has over 160 contacts and has been sending out weekly newsletters containing the labor fight updates and action items for the ULV student body since last week. 

“Our main focus right now is empowering [ULV] students to take a step up,” Romero said. “We’ve been doing that by doing surveying trips just to have those conversations that would hopefully sustain and build trust.”

There are some difficulties in laying that groundwork, according to Gardner.

“I don’t think there’s quite as much of a focus on students being involved in student organizations at La Verne in quite the way it is here,” Gardner said. “But from all the conversations that we’ve had, we can tell students really care about the workers and they want it to be better.”

Gardner describes CSWA’s efforts in helping ULV establish a student workers alliance as similar to that of the 5Cs.

“There’s also the fact that there are students who are working and being mistreated,” Gardner said. “Some of the people who we’ve been working with are students who are workers, and they have been interested in starting a La Verne Student Workers Alliance.”

However, Romero says that right now, a student workers alliance at ULV is going to take the form of a temporary mobilization outreach group to spread information about upcoming strikes and spaces to support the workers.

On March 7, ULV’s dining hall workers organized a picket line in front of The Spot Dining Hall with the support of CSWA members, Pitzer College, Pomona College and Whittier College workers. 

Gilson stated that ULV security showed up at the picket line, but did not attempt to stop the protest. 

“I was so happy to see all the 5C students who came out there and it looked like the workers were grateful for that too,” Romero said. “We are all part of a greater worker labor movement in the area and that everyone has each other’s back.” 

Until the strike takes place, CSWA hopes to establish a clear line of communication between the two schools.

“We’ll be bringing out students to La Verne’s campus to support them, and we’d expect a reciprocal relationship where La Verne students could come out here at the 5Cs if needed,” Romero said. “So the main goals will be just direct communication of support and aid.”

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