Harvard University Dining Services workers who were laid off after HUDS closed facilities last month received the option to shift into new roles beginning Jan. 27, on seniority in an internal reshuffling process known as “bumping.”
Twenty HUDS workers are looking for new positions after the University closed four units, including the Culinary Support Group kitchen, which produced soups, sauces, salads, and pastas for the entire campus. Those workers can choose to either take an open position or “bump” a less senior HUDS employee out of their position and take their job, according to a procedure laid out in the contract between Harvard and UNITE HERE Local 26, which represents the University’s dining workers.
“Bumping is more or less the ‘no member left behind’ model for UNITE HERE Local 26,” union chief shop steward Laquiesha N. Rainey said. “It’s basically to ensure that those members don't end up terminated without a job. You want their seniority to count for something.”
According to Article 16 of the union contract, all HUDS workers have the right to “bump” other less senior employees out of their positions provided they have the correct qualifications. Employees bumped out of their jobs can subsequently bump workers of even less seniority, creating a “domino effect,” according to Rainey.
Rainey and three other Local 26 shop stewards — Aaron J. Duckett, John E. Hughes, and William A. Ridgley — said they believe everyone who wants to keep a job at HUDS will ultimately be able to do so, in large part because Harvard’s voluntary early retirement incentive program opened up dozens of positions.
“There are so many open jobs right now because people retired,” Duckett said. “This isn’t going to be a huge effect. At the end of the day, everybody will have a job.”
Starting Jan. 27, beginning with the most senior employee laid off, the University began sending affected workers lists of open positions and their hours and requirements, as well as a complete roster of HUDS workers according to seniority and work classification. Each worker gets to choose their new position. Once management confirms their eligibility for the job, the lists are updated and given to the next most senior worker affected.
“HUDS has been and continues to work closely with the Local 26 leadership through the bumping process as guaranteed by the union contract,” HUDS spokesperson Crista Martin wrote in an emailed statement.
Initially, many of positions opened up by early retirement were not offered to laid-off workers. Local 26, concerned that necessary jobs were not being filled and the lack of open positions would force more workers to bump, convinced HUDS management to offer some of the positions, according to Duckett.
“It took us a couple of weeks to get them to put those positions back on the list and make them readily available to members who were being laid off,” Rainey said.
Ridgley said HUDS workers, especially junior staff, are anxious about the bumping process and have asked him if they need to start looking for new work.
“We reassure them at this point we do have a surplus of hours,” Ridgley said.
More senior HUDS workers are also concerned about the reason the bumping process was launched in the first place, namely, the shutdown of the CSG kitchen.
“The reason why it’s happening is because they’re closing a unit they shouldn’t be closing, the central kitchen — the Culinary Support Group,” said Duckett, who formerly worked at the central kitchen. “It’s a major part of what we do.”
He added that workers are worried about what they see as an essential work unit being eliminated, which could set a precedent for future layoffs and outsourcing.
“Our biggest concern is ‘Who’s next?’” Duckett said.
The union filed a formal grievance with the University over the closure of the CSG kitchen on Dec. 18, 2020. University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the grievance Thursday.
—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.
—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.