Food Workers and Janitors Who Serve Congress Go on Strike

Saturday, November 14, 2015
Contract workers protest on April 22, 2015 (photo: Rick Reinhardt, Good Jobs Nation)

Cafeteria and janitorial workers who serve members of Congress went on strike Tuesday to protest low wages and draw attention to retaliatory actions taken against workers who want to unionize.


The striking workers are employees of Restaurant Associates, a British-owned subsidiary of Compass Group, which contracts with Congress to operate the cafeterias in the Capitol Visitors Center and in the Senate.


Some of the workers have complained their wages are insufficient to live on, forcing them to take second jobs to make ends meet. One worker, who makes $10.33 an hour, has a second job in a strip club to support herself and her son. When she wrote an op-ed about her two jobs in The Guardian, she was angrily told by a supervisor that she “shouldn’t have said those things” and that “it’s not professional,” according to an unfair labor practice charge she filed. Another Restaurant Associates employee is homeless.


President Barack Obama has issued an executive order requiring future federal contracts provide workers with wages of at least $10.10 per hour. However, Restaurant Associates workers are still working under an older contract not subject to the new wage. Like many others in the food-service industry, the strikers are seeking a $15 hourly wage. 


Restaurant Associates’ revenues last year totaled nearly $26 billion with profits of about $1.3 billion. The company is currently negotiating with Congress on a new contract to replace the one expiring on December 1.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Cooks and Janitors at U.S. Capitol Strike In Protest of the British Company We Pay to Serve Senators (by Alan Pyke, ThinkProgress)

Labor Group Sees ‘Pattern of Retaliation’ Against Capitol Workers (by Bridget Bowman, Roll Call)

I Work at the U.S. Senate. I Shouldn’t Have to Dance at Strip Clubs to Feed My Son (by Kim, The Guardian)

The Homeless Man Who Works in the Senate (by Catherine Rampell, Washington Post)

Senate Food Workers Walk off the Job (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment