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Pomona Students Can’t Speak with Food Workers—They Might Join a Union

If you’re a student at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., you’d best not speak with a campus food service worker who’s on break, unless you do so in a management-authorized area.

Will Mullaney, a senior at Pomona who also serves as the communications officer for the student government, said that when he tried to talk to an on-break food service worker in the cafeteria last month, this is what happened, according to an e-mail signed by Mullaney and sent by UNITE HERE!:

I was asked to leave by one of the managers, who cited a college policy that forbids dining hall employees from talking to non-employees while on their break unless they leave the building.  This policy was passed by the administration after cafeteria workers expressed interest in forming their own union.

With the support of pro-labor students, Pomona food workers have been working in alliance with UNITE HERE!, which represents 90,000 food service workers across the country.

Mullaney was shooed away from the workers several days after workers, students and faculty celebrated Food Day, when they cooked a meal together and discussed their support for sustainable food practices, as well as the support workers require to prepare food in a sustainable manner. (Pomona’s on-campus food policy mandates sustainable preparation methods.)

UNITE HERE! is petitioning the Pomona College administration to lift the cafeteria gag rule. You can sign on here.

For more on UNITE HERE!’s sustainable food initiative, check out their new website, Real Food, Real Jobs.