The Senate food service (which ranges from the formal Senate dining room to the Senate cafeteria and several coffee shops) was privatized in 2008, and lower wages and benefits soon followed.
It got so bad that last year, the workers staged a series of strikes. As you might expect, they attracted a lot of media coverage, and many senators on both sides of the aisle publicly supported the cause. (Including many of the same senators who first perpetuated the idea that all government services should turn a profit, but that’s another story.)
There was a victory, of sorts. The legislative agency that handles procurement contracts at the Capitol finally got the company that runs the cafeteria to agree to a new contract giving employees a decent wage. Some workers would see a $5 bump.
According to the Washington Post, just days after the new contract was signed, cafeteria managers called workers into the office and told them to sign papers that reclassified their jobs, with new titles.
That last part’s important, because the hard-won new contract is occupation-specific. The Post interviewed a cook who should have gotten a raise to $17.45, but the reclassification to “food service worker” leaves him with $13.80. That larger raise would have allowed him to quit his weekend job.
Good Jobs Nation, a labor organization, has filed a complaint with the Labor Department on the Senate dining service workers’ behalf, saying this not only violates the contract, but federal law.
Now, here’s the part I want everyone to remember: A Democratic administration means workers are protected. Again and again, I’ve seen it: A Democrat in the White House means labor laws are actually enforced, and workers get a fair shake.
What do you suppose happens to this complaint if Republican Donald Trump takes the White House?
This is one of the biggest reasons I pull the straight-party lever. Because when you step into that booth, you’re not just voting for individuals — you’re voting for enforcement of the laws we already have.
And it’s not enough just to put a Dem in the White House. Because those agencies aren’t fully staffed enough to enforce the laws without adequate funding, and we already know that doesn’t happen when the Republicans are in charge.
I’m almost amused when people ask me why I urge people to vote the straight ticket. Because it’s our lives and our jobs! It’s not always a perfect system, but when Democrats are in charge, it’s always a vast improvement for workers’ lives.