Van Hollen, Brown, Klobuchar Urge Capitol, Cafeteria Management To Ensure Senate Dining Contract Leads To A Collective Bargaining Agreement
Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen joined Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in sending a letter to the Architect of the Capitol, Compass Group CEO, and Restaurant Associates CFO, urging them to work together to ensure the Senate cafeteria workers receive fair wages and benefits that reflect their substantial contributions to our Capitol community.
“Now that the immediate threat of layoffs is behind us, we encourage the Architect of the Capitol to work with all stakeholders, including Restaurant Associates and UNITE HERE, to ensure that the Senate food services contract reflects a commitment to a collective bargaining agreement with quality pay and benefits for all workers,” wrote the senators.
Workers at the Senate cafeteria proudly serve U.S. Senators and staffers every day at the Capitol. They are fighting for a union contract that will offer fair wages, affordable health insurance, a pension, and job security—the latter of which has become more urgent than ever. Currently, only 18% of workers are enrolled in health insurance through the company because it’s too expensive at their current wage scale.
Along with Van Hollen, Brown, and Klobuchar, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
You can read the full letter here or below.
Dear Mr. Blanton, Mr. Green, and Mr. Sargis:
We write to urge you to work together to ensure our Senate cafeteria workers receive fair wages and benefits that reflect their substantial contributions to our Capitol community.
As you know, the Architect of the Capitol has received funds to protect Senate food service workers’ jobs. This critical relief comes after Restaurant Associates, the contractor, announced a series of layoffs a few weeks ago, just as the Senate is taking steps to reopen to the public. After these dedicated employees faced down a violent insurrection at the Capitol and continued to serve through more than two years of a pandemic, layoffs should never have been on the table.
We understand that the ongoing public health crisis and security measures have led to financial challenges in Senate restaurants. While steps to reopen the Capitol are already underway and additional measures are being considered subject to the approval of the Capitol Police Board, foot traffic in the Senate cafeteria has been a fraction of what it was pre-pandemic and catering operations have ceased.
The timing of the announced layoffs was also concerning. The announcement was made after Senate food service workers obtained union recognition—represented by UNITE HERE Local 23 following a majority card count and voluntary recognition—but before they entered into a collective bargaining agreement with Restaurant Associates. Dozens of workers were scheduled to lose their jobs before they were protected by a collective bargaining agreement and just as the Capitol Complex was beginning to reopen, which will undoubtedly increase revenue for Senate restaurants.
The current pay and benefits available to Senate cafeteria workers are already shameful. Of all cafeteria workers in federal buildings around Washington, D.C., Senate cafeteria workers are the least likely to be enrolled in employer-sponsored health insurance or retirement—only 18 percent have employer-sponsored health insurance and none are enrolled in employer-sponsored pension benefits. For these workers to be laid off after serving this body throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in these conditions would be a stain on our institution.
On January 13, 2022, the Senate unanimously passed Resolution 490 honoring Capitol custodial and service workers for their bravery and service in the face of an attack by violent insurrectionists. The resolution specifically references Restaurant Associates and Sodexo staff in its findings and expresses gratitude for and provides support to Capitol personnel. The resolution also reaffirms a commitment to achieving “higher pay, collective bargaining rights, paid sick and vacation leave, and comprehensive health insurance with mental health resources” for personnel. We urge you to prioritize the needs of the essential workers of the United States Senate in line with the criteria set forth by the resolution.
Now that the immediate threat of layoffs is behind us, we encourage the Architect of the Capitol to work with all stakeholders, including Restaurant Associates and UNITE HERE, to ensure that the Senate food services contract reflects a commitment to a collective bargaining agreement with quality pay and benefits for all workers.
We thank you for working to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.
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