In the latest push for higher wages for Capitol food service workers, Senate Democrats are going to the source, calling on the food service vendor's parent company to raise wages and allow for collective bargaining.
Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., led a majority of the Senate Democratic Caucus, including members of leadership such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, in sending a letter to the CEO of British company Compass Group, which is the parent company of Restaurant Associates, the vendor that operates food services in the Capitol Visitor Center and the Senate. "The time has come for the Compass Group to ensure Senate cafeteria workers have a model employer that addresses its workers' legitimate concerns," the senators wrote.
The letter was sent one year to the day after Capitol food service workers first went on strike to push for union representation and a higher wage. Reports of workers struggling to make ends meet and facing retaliation for their efforts have spurred Democratic senators to call for action.
"These protests have attracted negative publicity not only to your company, but also to the institution of the Senate," the senators wrote.
The lawmakers asked Compass Group to commit to an agreement with the union looking to organize the workers, fire any manager who engages in unlawful conduct, not pressure workers to refrain from organizing, and allow workers to form a union by a majority signing union authorization cards.
Most of the caucus — 34 senators — signed the letter. Some names not on the list included Democrats in tight re-election races , such as Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, and some of the more moderate members of the caucus including Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
However, every member of the Senate Democratic Caucus signed onto an August letter to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, urging the committee to end its contract with Restaurant Associates if conditions do not improve. The contract expires Dec. 1 and is currently being renegotiated.
On Tuesday, roughly 100 Capitol workers went on strike again, calling for wages of $15 an hour wages and a union. Organizers said they will keep fighting until there is progress.