Pomona College in southern California is facing heavy criticism for firing 17 workers in its dining halls after they were unable to produce documentation proving that they were eligible to work in the United States. Critics allege the firings were an attempt to derail the formation of a union:
For the last two years, many of the dining hall workers had been organizing to form a union, but the efforts stalled amid negotiations with the administration. Many on campus believe that the administration began looking into the employees’ work authorizations as a way to thwart the union effort [...]
“We were here for a very long time and there was never a complaint,” said Christian Torres, 25, a cook who had worked at the college for six years. “But now all of the sudden we were suspect, and they didn’t want us to work here anymore.”
College President David W. Oxtoby has denied charges that the investigation into the legal status of dining hall employees was a form of union busting. If he’s not telling the truth, however, a decision by the pro-corporate Supreme Court makes it unlikely that Pomona will be held accountable — despite the fact that it is illegal to retaliate against workers seeking to form a union. A 2002 Supreme Court decision drastically reduced the consequences for companies that violate national labor laws in ways that impact immigrant workers, leaving millions of workers without a safe guard against exploitative employers.
The decision at Pomona College has sparked plenty of criticism and debate on the small, liberal arts campus known for its progressive ideals and quality education. Students and alumni are pushing back against the administration’s decision, and are questioning the real motives behind the firings.