University admin. present at protest held in support of dining workers
Students and dining staff gathered to protest a variety of concerns; Harvest Table management and University admin stood nearby.
Brandeis Leftist Union members led a call-and-response chant: “What do we want? Respect for workers! When do we want it? Now!” On Oct. 28, students and dining workers gathered in Upper Usdan for the second time this year to protest “in response to consistent disrespect and mistreatment from Harvest Table,” as stated by the BLU.
Students and dining workers marched down to the Harvest Table offices in Lower Usdan, chanting and holding signs. The demonstration started much like the BLU-organized march on Usdan on Sept. 22, when Brandeis police were called on the petitioners.
“Our requests are very simple,” said dining worker Lucia Hsiung said on Oct. 28, who was addressing the students eating in Lower Usdan. “We only want the company’s respect to us.” As the demonstrators arrived at the Harvest Table offices, they discovered that Clayton Hargrove, director of Hospitality, like last time, was not there.
Lois Stanley, vice president of Campus Operations, was present along with Stew Uretsky, vice president of Finance and Administration, and two representatives from Student Affairs. This was a marked difference from the last demonstration, where no University administrators were present. When asked by the Justice to comment, administrators declined to speak regarding Harvest Table, but stated that they were present at the delegation to protect the students right to protest.
In an email correspondence on Oct. 31, Stanley said, “I would have called Clay[ton Hargrove] to join the protest when I heard the group asking for him, but one of his colleagues had already done so.” The students and dining workers marched back to the entrance of Lower Usdan from the Harvest Table offices to meet Hargrove as he returned to the dining hall. Several other people in Harvest Table’s management came to stand behind Hargrove as well.
A dining worker named Mily, who has worked as a cashier in Upper Usdan and at Starbucks, addressed her concerns directly to Hargrove, saying, “People are very tired.” She described how workers will be assigned a shift in one dining area and then be asked to switch locations. “It has to stop,” she said. “You pick the schedule, you should be able to keep the schedule,” Mily contested. Hargrove, who had been silent up until that point, said, “I understand.”
Mily also said that she had worked several shifts at the Starbucks in Farber completely alone. She added that the same situation was happening that same day, and an employee at Starbucks named Jemy would work until closing by herself. “We never take our 10-minute breaks in the morning or the afternoon,” Mily added. She also has worked alone as a cashier in Upper. “They need to give people overtime,” she said. “No student workers, where are the students?”
Mily suggested that “if we want this business to work, we [dining workers and Harvest Table] need to work together, or we’re not gonna get anywhere.”
Then, Hsiung, the union steward for unionized dining workers through Boston’s Local 26, said, “we are not Harvest Table slaves. We are human beings.” A worker named Marilyn talked about the power imbalance at play: “If the management is strong enough, you have to listen.”
Jemy, a dining worker at the Starbucks, talked about what drives her work. “We are here to work as a team for the students,” she said. “I get so tired. It’s way too much work … you are saying we aren’t working hard enough.” She added that her managers’ frustrations impact her experience with students: “I don’t wanna be mad at my students and crying.”
At that point, Marilyn, a dining worker in Louis’ Deli, stood up for Hsiung. “People think she’s a troublemaker. She’s not. She’s just on her own [as union steward],” Marilyn said, putting an arm around Hsiung. Hargrove clapped for Hsiung along with the demonstrators and dining workers.
Jaiden Wolfman ’23 from the BLU stated, “We will continue to protest until the workers feel safe.” Later, Hsiung mentioned that a Harvest Table manager told workers that they would have to go to the demonstration on their own break time and asked, “Am I nice to you? Am I respectful to you?” Josh Benson ’23 from the BLU said, “That’s anti-labor shit, and we will not have it on our campus.” When the Justice asked Hargrove about worker intimidation, he said, “I don’t know anything about it.”
Addressing the crowd, Hargrove said, “I support the workers as much as you do.” He continued, “401(k)s, benefits that haven’t happened, that’s all gonna happen.” He declined to speak on Kevintz Merisier when the Justice asked. Hargrove said he was not permitted to talk about Merisier, because the “collective bargaining agreement” with the Union prevented him from doing so. He insisted that “we follow the contract to the letter.”
Wolfman repeated that the BLU and dining workers would be back to demonstrate again, to which Hargrove said, “I know you will.”