Senate Restaurant Staff Rebel Against Benefits Freeze

The 30 or so remaining dining services personnel who got swept up in the transfer of power from the Architect of the Capitol to Restaurant Associates in 2008 may now need pols to rectify unforeseen circumstances that have soured the entire experience for them. The fight for parity has been brewing ever since Norma Rogers — who told HOH she’ll have logged 33 years working on Capitol Hill come April — began investigating how her retirement package might shake out. Much to her dismay, Rogers discovered that as far as federal actuaries are concerned, she stopped being a government employee as soon as the catering services swap got inked into law. “They froze it in 2008,” a Senate Restaurants supervisor said of the nest egg-defining “High-3” calculus, a metric used to plot out pension payments based on the past 36 months of employment. Per the supervisor, the dramatic changes, including an ineligibility for overtime pay and disqualification from employer-sponsored life insurance coverage — the source said RA insists those benefits are tied to AOC; The Architect's office maintains RA should shoulder the burden — were not part of the agreement presented to those who elected to stay put in the congressional dining halls. “Maybe a bunch of other people would have gone and gotten other jobs in different agencies. But we didn’t want to because we didn’t feel we had to,” the supervisor said. “They took that option away because they didn’t tell us.” Attorney Donna Williams Rucker details the workers’ mounting despondency in a February 2014 letter addressed to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., then-Senate Rules Chairman Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and the original bill sponsor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “Our clients relied to their detriment on legislators’ assurances and, based on their treatment, have been relegated to ‘second-tier’ federal employees,” Rucker wrote. She goes on to implore the powers-that-be to not forget about the rank-and-file workers who fix their morning coffee, ready warm lunches and compose each dinner plate. “Our clients are convinced you are not aware of their plight because if you were, the situation would have long been addressed,” Rucker said in closing out her three page-petition. A spokeswoman for newly minted Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., assured HOH her boss “is reviewing all topics related to the jurisdiction of the Rules Committees." A Schumer aide declined to discuss specifics, but acknowledged the workers are on the New York Democrat’s radar. “Senator Schumer, both as Chairman and now Ranking Member of the Rules Committee, continues to investigate and search for solutions on these issues,” Team Schumer relayed via email. Rogers et al., said they’ve been meeting with Rules staff for months, all to no avail. (Most common excuses: “We don’t know how to write this legislation; It’s going to have to be voted on by too many people.”) Now, they say, it's time for Congress to assist those that take care of it. “You promised us that we were going to be made whole. That’s why we stayed with you," the supervisor counseled lawmakers. "Just make it right." The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.