Hundreds of dining service employees across the University have signed a petition calling for the reinstatement of a dining hall worker whom they claim was fired in retaliation for his union activities.
The workers plan to deliver the petition along with a formal grievance on Monday to demand rehiring and back pay for Scott P. Brown, a former pot washer and UNITE HERE! shop steward in the Dunster/Mather dining area who was fired on Sept. 4.
"This kind of discrimination against an employee is both reprehensible and illegal, and must end immediately," the petition states. "Scott’s termination is an affront to every employee of [Harvard University Dining Services], and undermines the relationship of collaboration and mutual respect between HUDS and its employees that we strive to maintain."
Five employees who worked with Scott in Dunster and Mather said that the dining area’s general manager singled out Brown, harassing and eventually firing him because he spoke up for other workers.
"[Brown] was the first one to stand up and speak for the workers. I think that has a lot to do with [his termination]," said Betty Johnson, a lead dining hall worker in the two Houses. "They just wanted to get him out of there because he was there to help."
Ed B. Childs, a chief shop steward and Adams chef who has worked at Harvard for 37 years, said that copies of the petition have been circulating in 14 dining halls and five campus cafés operated by HUDS, such as the Greenhouse Café in the Science Center.
University spokesperson Kevin Galvin said he would not comment on a case still going through the grievance process, and several HUDS and human resources officials, including Brown’s manager, did not return requests or declined to comment.
By Wednesday night, a group of shop stewards had gathered 237 signatures from nine dining halls and said that they expected more.
Childs said that the vast majority of workers presented with the petition had signed it. "Every worker who heard the case is appalled," he said.
In Annenberg, for example, 51 of 68 workers signed the petition, according to shop steward Kerry E. Maiato.
"They’re pretty devastated," Maiato said of his coworkers in Annenberg.
Brown’s termination notice from his general manager stated that he was late to his station on Sept. 4, two weeks after receiving a final warning due to "failure to adhere to HUDS employee expectations," and that after he refused to leave, Harvard police officers escorted him off campus.
"Due to this incident which included tardiness and insubordinate behavior your employment is being terminated effective today," the notice read.Brown later received a letter from Harvard police stating that he was prohibited from Harvard property due to his "recent behavior toward members of the Harvard community."
Brown has previously been terminated and reinstated twice, in June 2006 and Aug. 2008. In both cases, Brown said, he was fired after not reporting for shifts that he did not know he was scheduled for. Both times, Brown was reinstated after filing grievances.Brown’s prior warning that preceded his most recent termination stated that he failed to return to work from summer break on Aug. 14, the date that he had indicated in April.
He said he was issued an earlier discipline warning in part because he missed a cleaning day, which he had not been told to report for. In nine years working at Harvard, he had not previously been asked to work a cleaning day, he said.