On Wednesday July 20 the cooks, cashiers and dishwashers who staff the Senate cafeteria escalated their fight for fair wages and working conditions with a civil disobedience action in front of the Senate’s Dirksen office building. After a rally, 17 workers and supporters were arrested for blocking traffic as they called on the Senators to ensure living wages and affordable health care for cafeteria employees.
Speakers at the rally included US Senators, Representatives and Fr. Brian Jordan, OFM, a labor priest and pastor of St. Camillus in nearby Silver Spring. Workers at the cafeteria, operated under contract by vendor Restaurant Associates, formed a union last year under a “card check” process validated by Fr. Martin Burnham.
The workers have negotiated a tentative contract with Restaurant Associates, but the Senate must take action to make sure the cafeteria is funded sufficiently to pay the promised wages and benefits. Operations at the capitol are supervised by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, chaired by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Catholic Labor Network members have met with Senator Klobuchar’s staff about the situation but it remains unresolved.
“I was really moved by the dedication and perseverance of all the cafeteria workers and participants at the rally outside the US Senate Dirksen building,” said Fr. Jordan. “I am outraged that these US senators who are guaranteed a just wage, health care benefits and a pension plan–cannot force the food company Restaurant Associates to immediately provide a sound contract with benefits. Where is the collective moral conscience of these US senators?”
CLICK HERE to send a letter to your Senators calling for just wages and benefits for the Senate cafeteria workers!