Chef, Union Leader Decries Investigation

An Adams House chef and union official says he is being investigated for work stoppage and hostile behavior on the evening of Halloween.

Edward Childs, chief shop steward for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 26, says that he denounced management for requiring workers to clean under dangerous conditions and for denying them the right to participate in or watch Adams’ annual Drag Night performance.

Childs says that because of this act he is being investigated by the Office of Human Resources and the Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS).

Rosemary E. McGahey, director of residential dining for HUDS, declined to comment on whether Child is facing disciplinary action.

Accounts of the events of Halloween vary.

Childs claims that HUDS employees were told that they could not participate in or voice their support for the Drag Night festivities.

He further alleges that on the same night workers were asked to stand on countertops to clean the walls above them.

Deeming this dangerous, and the prevention of participation in Drag Night unacceptable, Childs says that he told his workers to discontinue this method of cleaning and denounced the manager as being “anti-gay.”

McGahey denied that workers were prevented from participation in Drag Night.

“They were absolutely permitted to participate once the cleaning for the next day was finished,” McGahey said.

She said that the manager simply insisted that they complete their normal after-dinner tasks beforehand.

“We were just following our normal cleaning procedures,” McGahey said.

Also according to McGahey, workers were actually discouraged from standing on the countertops in order to clean.

She said the manager helped one of the workers down by getting him a chair.

Childs disputes McGahey’s description of events and said that management only backed down on these two points as a result of worker complaints.

“Without our intervention they would have kept it up,” he said.

Childs, a well-known union leader famous for having brought food to students participating in the 2001 living wage sit-in, believes that the alleged investigation is part of an effort to eliminate his job.

Allegations that Childs, who also served on the University’s employment policies committee created following the sit-in, may be facing retaliatory action for his activist stance surfaced last Tuesday morning on WBUR’s “The Connection” radio program.

On the program, Greg Halpern ’99, author of the recent book Harvard Works Because We Do said, “It’s a shame, Ed has always been visible as an activist and unfortunately he’s hurting now because of it.”

Childs’ situation is one of the issues that will be addressed at a protest organized by the Progressive Student Labor Movement tomorrow afternoon at Holyoke Center.

The e-mail advertising the demonstration, sent out to the PSLM Planning list by former member Aaron Bartley, urges members to protest the “trumped up investigation” of Childs.