Smith students march for cafeteria workers, immigrants

  • Smith College student Hana Sarfan, right, speaks Thursday during a rally at College Hall on the Smith College campus. Another student, Milo Bond, second from right, also spoke. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lin Geng, right, of Northampton, speaks during a rally Thursday at College Hall, Smith College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Students listen to a speaker during a rally Thursday at College Hall, Smith College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lin Geng, of Northampton, speaks during a rally Thursday at College Hall, Smith College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lin Geng, of Northampton, speaks during a rally Thursday at College Hall, Smith College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/2/2016 12:13:27 AM

NORTHAMPTON — About 250 Smith College students and other supporters marched Thursday in solidarity with undocumented students and union-represented employees embroiled in contract negotiations with the school.

The afternoon walkout was part of a nationwide effort on college campuses calling on administrators to protect their undocumented students from the prospect of deportation during a Donald Trump presidency.

Northampton Police Sgt. Greg Korepta said afterward the protest was pre-planned and went off without any problems. He said a portion of Elm Street between Henshaw Avenue and Main Street was shut down for 5 or 10 minutes while students marched.

This week, college President Kathleen McCartney issued a statement saying she “supported the spirit” of a petition that 1,600 Smith students, staff, faculty and alumnae signed calling for protection.

Smith College leaders issued a six-point pledge, including promises to continue not releasing immigration status information unless compelled to do so and also considering undocumented immigrant applicants the same way the school considers all applications.

The students also marched in solidarity with college employees represented by SEIU Local 211. Those employees, including cafeteria workers and housekeeping staff, are in contract negotiations with Smith College.

The University of Massachusetts’ Daily Collegian newspaper reported Thursday that the two sides would meet Friday to continue negotiations.

The sticking points, the newspaper said, include debate over acceptable levels of temporary workers, who critics say take away hours from permanent workers.

Smith College, in a statement, said the allegation the school uses temporary workers to limit permanent worker hours is “entirely untrue.” The college often has to hire temporary workers when permanent staffers are on leave or to accomodate fluctuations in catering operations, according to the statement.

“No students, documented or undocumented, would be able to attend Smith without the hard work and dedication of dining and housekeeping employees,” a statement from student protest organizers said.

A crowd gathered Thursday on Chapin Lawn after the march down Elm Street also heard from Diana Sierra, of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center.

“We’ve been organizing to pass a wage-theft ordinance,” she said in an interview. She said undocumented workers are especially vulnerable to wage theft because they have little leverage with employers.

Contact Jack Suntrup at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.




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