Due to the fact that the U.S. Senate’s own cafeteria and catering full-time employees cannot afford the cost of living in Washington, D.C., Sen. Bernie Sanders and 33 Democrats sent a letter on Friday accusing management of intimidating cafeteria workers and discouraging their right to organize. Although the people who serve their food cannot afford to live on full-time wages, no Republicans bothered to sign the letter.
“Employees working full time in the U.S. Senate should not be living in poverty,” the letter stated. “Yet with the cost of living in the Washington metropolitan area among the highest in the United States, there have been numerous reports of Senate cafeteria workers forced to take a second job, rely on public assistance programs, and in at least one instance, into homelessness.”
For the past several months, U.S. Senate and Capitol Visitor Center cafeteria workers have been leading strikes while protesting against low wages and poor working conditions. Currently pushing to organize a union through a majority sign-up process, the workers have been met with pressure and intimidation from their managers. Management of Restaurant Associates, a subsidiary of the Compass Group that employs Senate dining and catering workers, has been accused of resorting to “coercive tactics to oppose workers’ labor organizing efforts that are contrary to domestic labor laws and the stated policies and values of your company.”
Although the U.S. National Labor Relations Board upheld charges against the company regarding discriminatory and intimidating behavior, the letter alleges that within weeks of settling those charges Restaurant Associates’ President Ed Sirhal called a meeting with his employees discouraging them to organize a union. Sirhal reportedly held the meeting while the Senate was on recess.
Sanders and the other senators even pointed out that Restaurant Associates was in a similar situation two years ago when their food-service workers attained collective bargaining rights. The letter called for Compass Group CEO Richard Cousins to reach a comparable deal by agreeing to terminate any managers who engage in unlawful conduct, refrain from intimidating workers attempting to unionize, and recognize the union’s representative authority.
Compass Group, a U.K.-based multinational corporation, was reported as the largest food-service company in the world by revenue last year and could easily afford to pay fair wages. Many of the cafeteria employees have recently turned to Good Jobs Nation, which is funded by the Service Employees International Union, the group fighting for a $15 minimum wage and union representation in the fast food industry.
Along with presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, 33 other Democrats signed the letter, including Barbara Boxer, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Martin Heinrich, Patrick Leahy, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and Elizabeth Warren. In August, Senate Democrats asked the Rules Committee to investigate the treatment of Restaurant Associates’ workers.
Abhorrently content with the fact that the people who serve them food cannot afford to regularly eat or pay rent on a full-time wage, no Republican bothered to defend the underpaid cafeteria workers. For once in their lives, the GOP finally decided to uphold the separation of Church and State by not attempting to impose their religious beliefs onto the public. But instead of banning abortions, alcohol, and gay marriages, I recall Jesus helping the sick and the poor throughout The Gospels. Maybe I just read a bad translation of the good book.