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A Report on Unionization Efforts in Pomona College Dining Services

Letter from President Oxtoby

April 30, 2013

To the Pomona College Community,

In today’s NLRB election, 83 members of Pomona’s dining staff cast their ballots, and through a vote of 57-to-26 in favor of the union, they have decided to be represented in collective bargaining by Local 11 of UNITE HERE. We consistently stood for the ability of our employees to make this important decision for themselves through a democratic process, and we are glad that they have exercised that opportunity. 

The next step in this process will be for representatives of the College administration and the union to plan formal negotiations toward an initial contract. The timing of these negotiations will depend upon many factors, and some of the issues to be negotiated are not simple. In the meantime, our dining employees will continue to work under current policies and procedures, and their current levels of compensation and benefits will continue unchanged until there is a signed contract.

I’m happy for our employees that this period of uncertainty is now over, and I’m proud of our community for upholding the principles this institution stands for throughout this difficult, sometimes divisive process. I’m also proud of the progress the College administration and dining employees have made together over the last few years in building a Dining Services operation that better serves both the dining needs of this community and the needs of the people who work in our dining halls.

Pomona College is an exceptionally good place to work, and though this result may change the communication channels and procedures between management and some of our employees, it does not change our commitment to work with all of our employees to ensure that this college remains a place where they are appreciated, respected and rewarded.

David W. Oxtoby

Letter en Español [pdf]

Summary Update

April 30, 2013

Following a three-year unionization campaign, Pomona College's dining hall employees decided through a National Labor Relations Board vote to be represented by the union UNITE HERE in collective bargaining. The vote was 57 to 26.

Now that the workers have made their decision, the College and union representatives will begin negotiations toward an initial contract.  Until a contract is reached, the current policies and procedures will continue to apply.

Background

In March 2010, a group of Dining Services employees called Workers for Justice (WfJ) approached the College administration with a set of preconditions for a process by which dining hall employees could choose whether or not to be represented by a union.

In response, President David Oxtoby sent a letter to all dining hall employees to tell them the College respected their right to organize. He also pledged that, in keeping with the College’s educational mission, the campus discussion should be free from harassment and intimidation and include an open, community-wide conversation on the issues and a secret ballot election process governed by the National Labor Relations Act.

Beginning in April 2010, some WfJ employees began discussions with College officials about the process for forming a union. On June 15, 2011, the College made a proposal to WfJ for a process to hold a secret ballot election. WfJ rejected this proposal, stating that it would agree to a secret ballot only if the College administration first agreed, unconditionally and for an indefinite period, to refrain from any discussion of unionization, including any response to inaccurate or misleading information.

From the beginning, the College has consistently said to the community that (1) the dining employees have the right to decide for themselves whether they wish to be represented by a union; (2) the process must be through a fair and democratic secret ballot election under federal law, and (3) the conditions leading to such an election should be free from harassment and intimidation tactics and consistent with the College’s fundamental values associated with free speech.

Dining Services Fact Sheet

Dining Services is a department in the Office of Facilities and Campus Services. Since January 2011, Dining Services has been under direct College management. These facts are provided to answer questions that have been raised about employment in Dining Services.

Staffing and Wages

  • Average number of Dining Services staff – 98
  • Current staff (as of 9/6/12) - 11 management/administration and 80 staff members with 7 staff vacancies
  • Number of Dining Services employees who have worked for Pomona 10 years or more - 28
  • Lowest hourly pay for Dining Services utility workers and cashiers – $10.67, as of July 1, 2012
  • Average hourly pay for entry level positions - $11.87 + benefits
  • Average hourly pay for intermediate level positions - $14.28 + benefits
  • Average hourly pay for skilled positions - $17.40 + benefits
  • In March 2011, Dining employees, who were on nine-month appointments, were offered the opportunity to change to full-year (12-month) employment, starting July 1, 2011. Most chose to move to full-year employment.
  • In 2011, the College completed a comprehensive compensation study to ensure that all College employees were being compensated fairly at current market rates.
  • Federal minimum wage - $7.25 per hour
  • California minimum wage - $8.00 per hour

Staff Benefits Highlights

(Available to all Pomona College staff and are available throughout the full calendar year.)

  • Health Insurance – Three employer-subsidized health plan options available for employees and eligible dependents (Anthem Blue Cross HMO, Anthem Lumenos Health Savings Account and Kaiser HMO) as well as dental and vision plans. Starting in 2011, the College increased the amount of the subsidy for all health plans for all employees earning $52,000 or less per year. This means under the Anthem Blue Cross HMO plan, the employee-only option remains $40.27 per month for 2013. The two-person cost is $82.74 per month, and the employee family plan with 90% subsidy is $118.09 per month. For the Kaiser HMO, the employee-only option is of $39.54 per month for 2013. The two-person cost is $83.03, and the employee family plan with subsidy is $118.09 per month.
  • Medical Leave -  As a policy, all of the Claremont Colleges grant up to 12 months of leave for medical reasons, with medical certification. On extended medical leave, employees may use accumulated sick, vacation and personal time to replace income. Employees also remain eligible for continued insurance coverage throughout the leave.  At the end of 12 months, if an employee is unable to return to work, Pomona continues the interactive dialogue with the employee, to try to find an accommodation to return them to work. All employees are given this opportunity
  • Flexible Savings Accounts are available health care and dependent care.
  • Sick Leave – Accrues at one day per month to a maximum of 960 hours.
  • Vacation – Is accrued according to policy outlined in the Staff Handbook, ranging from 10 days per year in the first year, 12 days per year in the second year of employment, 18 days in the third year, and 22 days in the fourth year of employment and beyond.
  • Paid Holidays - 10 paid holidays as listed in the Staff Handbook.
  • Child Care Subsidy – available to all staff and faculty through flexible benefits account
  • Tuition Remission – Pomona pays 100% of tuition for employees in a matriculated degree program and up to 50% of undergraduate tuition for employee spouses, registered domestic partners, and dependent children.
  • Retirement Plan – Pomona contributes 10% of gross salary with no required employee contribution

For a list of staff benefits, visit our Human Resources - Benefits page.

Recent Changes to Dining Services

Management changes:

  • Karen Sisson begins as vice president and treasurer of Pomona College, with duties that include oversight of the Office of Facilities and Campus Services (formerly Campus Planning) – July 2008
  • Robert Robinson begins as Assistant Vice President, Facilities and Campus Services – February 2009.
  • Margie McKenna, Assistant Director, Campus Services, given additional responsibility for Dining Services – July 2009.
  • Glenn Graziano appointed Dining Services General Manager - December 2010.
  • Pomona College takes over full direct management of the Dining Services operation, no longer utilizing a third-party food management service - January 2011.

Procedural and organizational changes since June 2009 include:

  • Established regular staff meetings including Vice President Karen Sisson, Assistant Vice President Robert Robinson, and Assistant Vice President for Human Resources Brenda Rushforth
  • Instituted consistent practices and policies in several areas
  • Changed policies to ensure work for Dining Services staff, within Facilities and Campus Services, when Dining Halls are closed during the academic year
  • Upgraded equipment such as kitchen anti-fatigue mats and purchased new housekeeping equipment
  • Adopted a mission statement [pdf] that includes “adopting ‘best practices’ to provide a healthy, safe and engaging environment” (December 2009)
  • Revised procedures for the more equitable distribution of overtime opportunities (June 2009)
  • Created a new Facilities and Campus Services Advisory Committee with election of representatives from each shift in each department (Dining Services, Grounds, Housekeeping and Maintenance) in early February 2010. The first meeting was held on March 17, 2010.
  • Provided additional Dining Services training. (In summer 2012, this included training in the areas of kitchen safety, fire extinguishers, juicer use and kitchen equipment. Other recent training includes baking by Swiss Chalet in 2011 and the Culinary Institute of America in 2010.)
  • In March 2011, all Dining Services employees were offered the opportunity to become 12-month College employees or remain in their current nine-month positions. On July 1, 2011, all but four dining employees moved to 12-month positions.
  • In October 2011, Dining Services was approved to hire 19 additional employees in response to the increased workload due from changing to a more sustainable operation and making more items from scratch.

1999-2000 Protest and Resolution (History)

  • In 1999, all Claremont Colleges food service workers were employees of ARAMARK. There were allegations of improper labor practices by ARAMARK, and SEIU was urging workers to ask for a card-check election.
  • On May 1, 2000, students blocked access to Alexander Hall in protest over the working conditions of food services staff.
  • In late May 2000, the Claremont Colleges decided to terminate ARAMARK’s contract.
  • The Pomona-based ARAMARK employees were hired by Pomona College with the same benefits given to all College staff. This resulted in wage, pension and benefit increases.
  • In August 2000, Pomona College hired an arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association to determine the interest of Dining Services staff in either joining Pomona College staff or being employed by Sodexo. Following a meeting with the arbitrator, the Colleges' Catholic Chaplain at the time, and Dining Services staff--with no member of the administration present--the arbitrator reported that the workers preferred to move forward as employees of Pomona College.
  • Sodexo managed food services under contract for Pomona for 10 years.

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