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Harvard University Dining Services employees working in Quincy House’s dining hall stopped reporting to work Saturday after two of their co-workers tested positive for COVID-19.
Multiple Quincy dining employees said they first became aware of the test results Friday morning via word of mouth. The HUDS workers also said they believe another individual in a Quincy management position has been tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results.
As HUDS workers in Quincy learned of the test results, representatives for UNITE HERE Local 26, a regional union that represents Harvard’s dining workers, met to prepare a formal grievance on their behalf. The union filed the complaint with the University in response to “unsafe work conditions” which risked the health of the dining employees at Quincy, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Crimson.
Charlene V. Almeida, a union shop steward at Quincy, said the union filed the grievance to tell the University that “we are not coming back, that we need to self-quarantine — no union employee is working there.”
Almeida and Laqueisha N. Rainey, another HUDS shop steward, said the union informed Quincy management Friday evening that union workers would not be returning to work for the next 14 days.
“Management was made aware and failed to notify members,” Rainey wrote. “The union has asked that all members working who were working at Quincy immediately go into quarantine for the next 14 days.”
The University later issued similar guidance to workers in Quincy on Saturday.
University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote in an emailed statement that Quincy dining workers began to be notified to not report to work for 14 days due to potential exposure to COVID-19 beginning Saturday morning. He further added that the University advised workers to self-isolate for 14 days, and to contact their primary care physician if they have further concerns or begin to experience symptoms.
Four Quincy employees said they did not receive notification of the positive test results or health advice from the University until Saturday evening — roughly 24 hours after they received guidance from the union.
According to Swain, management will facilitate lunch and dinner preparation for residents in the absence of HUDS staff.
As the University shuttered most of its operations in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, some employees, including custodians, security officers, and dining workers, stayed behind to provide essential services for the students that remained on campus. In recent weeks, some of these employees said they have been working without adequate access to safety equipment, are not guaranteed the same emergency benefits as those in non-essential occupations, and are forced to come into work even if they belong to a high-risk community.
Quincy employees self-quarantining at home must now use sick time to maintain their compensation, according to the University’s advanced sick leave policy. If workers want to take time off for COVID-19-related concerns, they must use their available sick days, and may take out a loan of 14 extra days that will be deducted from their sick time for next year.
Valerie Johnson, a cook at Quincy, said it remains unclear whether Harvard would make an exception to this policy for the Quincy dining employees.
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