Harvest Table calls Police on student-worker delegation
The police were called on Brandeis Leftist Union members who were protesting, alongside a dozen dining workers, the abrupt firing of Kevintz Merisier.
At Sherman dining hall, there is a black bulletin board adjacent to the entrance. Students can voice their opinions on brown paper napkins and attach them to the board. One comment read “Please bring back skim and 2% milk” with a smiley face. A small yellow sticky note attached on top of the napkin (presumably from a dining worker or Harvest Table employee), read “on the way!” in response. Sure enough, skim and two percent milk were back in the dairy section. A fair amount of the napkins, however, read statements such as “Reinstate Kevintz.” There were no yellow sticky notes attached to these suggestions. Veteran Catering Lead Kevintz Merisier was not back on the job. According to dining worker Lucia Hsiung — who also serves as a Union Steward for Boston Local 26, the union that represents the Brandeis dining and catering team — Director of Hospitality Clayton Hargrove declined to rehire Merisier on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
Since the dismissal of Merisier on Sept. 7, neither Harvest Table nor the University has released an official statement on his job status. Two weeks later, on Sept. 22, over a dozen dining workers partnered with the Brandeis Leftist Union in a display of student-worker solidarity.
The Sept. 22 delegation began at 2:40 p.m. in Upper Usdan. A member of the BLU led a call-and-response chant with workers on a megaphone, saying “What do we want? Kevintz back! When do we want it? Now!”
In blue shirts and black pants with smiles across many of their faces, dining workers posed for photos with banners saying “Reinstate Kevintz” painted in black and blue lettering and “Worker Power Student Power” in blue and red lettering. The group marched down to Harvest Table’s office in Lower Usdan, in an attempt to give Hargrove a petition. The petition included demands to reinstate Kevintz with back pay and was signed by over 600 people. But Hargrove was not there. “They got scared and ran away,” one dining worker remarked, referring to the employees who work in the Office of Hospitality.
Though it was not part of the original plan, BLU members and one dining worker decided they would walk in the rain to confront Hargrove at Sherman Dining Hall. Upon arrival, workers at Sherman greeted the demonstrators with cheers and encouragement.
Dining workers pointed demonstrators in Hargrove’s direction. Hargrove would not accept the petition. Instead, he speed-walked through the back hallways of Sherman. “Clayton, this petition was signed by over 600 people,” a BLU member shouted, as Hargrove’s back was turned to them. But he continued avoiding them, and then disappeared into the kitchens.
BLU members made the trek back up to Usdan and scattered when they received word that the Brandeis Police had been called to Sherman. Two BranPo officers arrived at Upper Usdan minutes later. According to the Department of Student Rights and Community Standards’ “Rights and Responsibilities” page, “the University has a responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.” BranPo is instructed not to break up protests. According to the Brandeis police log, upon arriving at Sherman and seeing that no students were there, no further action was taken.
As of Oct. 3, Harvest Table executives have canceled meetings with both the BLU and the Justice. Matthew Carty, the guest experience manager with Harvest Table, whom Justice reporters have been instructed to send all questions to, declined to meet in-person. He instructed reporters to send all questions over email for Harvest Table to review. The Justice reached out to Carty via email on Oct. 3, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.
Despite telling Justice reporters on Tuesday, Sept. 13 that he could meet at 11 a.m. on Sept. 16, Carty canceled the evening before. He said he now had a “conflict in the morning.” When asked for a different time to meet in person, he said, “We appreciate the offer … our time is completely focused on the dining experience – however, please feel free to reach out with written questions.” Since then, Harvest Table has declined repeated requests to meet in person.
Since the police were called on Sept. 22, the BLU, which frequently posts information on their Instagram, posted an infographic detailing their account of the situation as well as their demands. Titled “Harvest table executive calls police on students,” the post claims Hargrove “called campus police and lied about the reason students were present.” The Justice direct-messaged the BLU Instagram to verify how they knew it was Hargrove who called. “We were notified by someone who spoke to the police after they arrived but will not disclose who the individual was for safety reasons,” they replied. At the time of publication, BLU’s post has received more than 400 likes, and the petition to reinstate Kevintz had over 600 signatures.
Hsiung said she expected that these tensions would happen. “Every time the new company is the same way,” she said. “They need to respect the union,” she added, in reference to Boston Local 26. Regarding Harvest Table’s lack of comment on Merisier’s job status and the events that have subsequently occurred, she said, “If no answer, we’ll be back.”