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Senate Food Workers to Get Raise in New Contract

Workers have been striking for over a year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After more than a year of going on strike for higher wages and union representation, Senate food workers earning minimum wage are set to get a nearly $3 per hour raise.  

A new seven-year contract for the Senate food service vendor took effect Monday, which, according to multiple sources, includes wage increases and "union neutral" language that stipulates the company is not taking a position on whether or not workers can unionize. The Architect of the Capitol negotiated the contract with Restaurant Associates and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee approved the agreement.

A Senate source familiar with the contract said it was a seven-year extension of the contract that lifted the minimum salary from $10.50 per hour to $13.30 per hour, an increase of $2.80 per hour.

"The modification creates a more predictable operating schedule and increases minimum hourly wage rates," AOC spokeswoman Laura Condeluci wrote in an email. "In addition to an hourly wage, all employees will continue to receive, in accordance with the Service Contract Act, additional benefits in the amount of $4.27 per hour that employees may use for health and retirement benefit programs or have added to their checks."  

Condeluci did not respond to a request for details about the minimum wage increases, but sources say other wage increases will vary according to position.  

“I want to commend the Architect of the Capitol, Restaurant Associates, and my Rules Committee colleagues for their willingness to modify and improve this contract, which is now in line with other Capitol complex contracts," Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said in  a statement.  

"I am thankful for the employees that do so much for the Senate day in and day out," Blunt said. "And I am glad their concerns were heard and taken into consideration in the new contract.”  

Senate Democrats, and a group of Senate staffers, have called for wage increases and collective bargaining for Senate workers. Since the workers started going on strike in November 2014 , their stories of being forced to work two jobs to support their families, and one worker who was homeless, have resonated with many lawmakers.  

According to a labor organizer, roughly 20 Senate workers were told Monday morning that they were operating under a new contract, and that they would receive more details on raises in the new year.  

“This is a good step in the right direction," said Paco Fabian, a spokesman for Good Jobs Nation, which has been organizing the strikes, "but workers are going to continue fighting until they have a voice on the job.”

Sources also said that Restaurant Associates was granted the authority to incrementally raise food prices in the Senate. The AOC spokeswoman did not return for a request for comment on the extent of potential price increases.

Related:
Biden Reunites with Senate Worker, Calls for a Raise