On Wednesday, August 3rd, workers and students from across the country rallied at Pomona College to protest the treatment of a fired dining hall worker at the school. The protest began with a 100-person picket of Alexander Hall: on the picket-line, Pomona workers, students, and alumni, joined by students, organizers, and workers from UNITE HERE, chanted: “what do we want?” “Francisco back!”
The chant referred to the recent termination of Francisco Garcia, a cook at Pomona for 16 years: Garcia is both a leader in the dining hall workers’ unionization drive and an injured worker. Part of Wednesday’s protest included a delegation to General Manager Glenn Graziano, and Assistant Director of Campus Facilities, Margie McKenna, who were observing the rally, and were presented with Unfair Labor Practice charges. Now, the school will face an investigation into Garcia’s termination by the National Labor Relations Board’s Regional Office.
Workers, led by Francisco Garcia, also presented the ULP charges to Vice President Karen Sisson. “During the negotiations, you said the workers had a voice (in the workplace). Well, this is our voice,” said cook Christian Torres to Sisson, referring to the strength of the workers’ and students’ collective action. Cook Rolando Araiza then led the group in a “Si Se Puede” chant.
Outside of Alexander Hall, the rally continued: student and alumni supporters spoke out. Loyola Marymount University (LMU) student Fatima also spoke, explaining how workers and students had come together at her school and organized for two years to finally win the union in April. “On behalf of LMU students, we support your right to a democratic process to unionize,” she encouraged Pomona workers. The two-hour rally ended with workers, students, and alumni locking arms, and singing “De Colores.” Many press venues covered the event, including TV channels NBC and Azteca, ensuring that the workers’ message of fighting on is heard loud and clear.