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Senate Leaders Join Dining Boycott

Schumer and Brown pose with Senate workers. (Photo courtesy Good Jobs Nation)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., the chamber's No. 3 Democrat, made a surprise appearance in a Senate cafeteria Wednesday afternoon to join a boycott of the Senate's food service vendor. Senate staffers launched the boycott last week , urging Restaurant Associates to raise wages for Senate workers and allow for collective bargaining. Roughly 80 staffers showed up at the boycott Wednesday, bringing their lunches in brown bags marked with stickers that read, "Senate Staff Solidarity."  

"I'm proud of each of you," Reid told the staffers and workers gathered in the Dirksen Senate Office Building cafeteria.  

"I just wanted to say, as ranking member of the Rules Committee, I am on your side and we're going to fight for you," Schumer said.  

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee oversees the ongoing negotiations to renew Restaurant Associate's Senate contract, which expires in December — though the main negotiator is the Architect of the Capitol. Schumer said Wednesday he did not have any update on the status of the negotiations.  

"I wanted to show my support of the staffers and the workers," he told CQ Roll Call as he was leaving the cafeteria. "It's our belief that if you work 40 hours a week and work long and hard, you should be able to live a decent life of dignity. So, we believe in this campaign"  

And, he pointed out, Restaurant Associates might take notice that staffers are organizing in support of the workers.  

"They're the customers," Schumer said. "If a business knows its customers want change, they're more apt to change."  

Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, also joined the boycott. Brown escorted Reid and Schumer around the cafeteria, where they met and took photos with Dirksen workers.  

"We're on your side," Schumer said as he and Reid waved to the workers behind the grill section of the dining area.  

Dion Montague, a cashier in Dirksen who has participated in recent worker strikes, said he was encouraged by the show of support from lawmakers and Senate staff.  

"I love them for doing what they do because they don't have to do that," Montague said. "I'm glad that they're standing up for the little people. Hopefully other people will see that and follow suit and turn over a new leaf, get a new contract, and we'll all be happy."  

The group of staffers who organize the boycotts aim to make it a weekly occurrence until there is a change.

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