Trump signs bill restoring retirement benefits for Senate dining workers

Law would remedy worker retirement benefits that have been flat since 2008

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sponsored the legislation to grant Senate dining employees full benefits, which President Donald Trump signed into law on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Veteran Senate dining employees are getting their full retirement benefits restored after President Donald Trump signed into law a bill that lifts a freeze that had kept them stagnant since 2008.

Trump signed the bill on Wednesday, which makes technical corrections to the computation of average pay regarding the benefits for the dining workers in the Senate, a move that allows cafeteria workers to fully collect their due retirement.

In 2008, the Senate privatized its dining services and changed 45 workers’ employment status from that of a federal employee to a private contractor. Senate dining retirement benefits — based on workers’ 2008 wages — have not increased, although their pay did.

After Senate dining services employees were transferred from the supervision of the Architect of the Capitol to Restaurant Associates in 2008, their status as a federal employee lapsed and their accompanying retirement accounts were frozen.

In 2015, senators, including Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called on the CEO of the British company Compass Group, of which Restaurant Associates is a subsidiary, to raise pay and permit collective bargaining. Restaurant Associates is the vendor that operates dining services in the Capitol Visitor Center and Senate.

The bill alters the calculation of retirement benefits for long-serving Senate dining employees, including former employees who have retired. The new law will base the employees’ retirement benefits on wages from their entire time working in the Senate — some of which could double. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown.

“These long-serving cafeteria and catering employees work every bit as hard as anyone else in Congress — often harder — and they deserve the full retirement benefits they’ve earned,” said the Ohio Democrat in a statement.

The bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by Senators Roy Blunt, R-Mo. and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Rules and Administration Committee.

“It’s time that we give our Senate food service workers the benefits they earned. I’m proud to have helped get this done and grateful for all they do,” said Klobuchar.

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.