August 06, 2015

As Senate Rules Committee Negotiates Contract With Restaurant Associates, Warner And Kaine Join Senate Colleagues In Push For Better Wages For Senate's Cafeteria And Catering Employees

Letter Follows Several Accounts of Senate Cafeteria and Catering Workers Who’ve Faced Financial Hardship Due to Low Wages offered by Senate Contractor, Restaurant Associates

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined their Senate colleagues’ efforts to raise wages for the U.S. Senate’s cafeteria and catering workers. As the Senate Rules Committee negotiates its contract with the Restaurant Associates – the Senate’s food and catering contractor – Warner, Kaine and 39 of their Democratic colleagues urged Rules Committee leadership to advocate for better wages for these employees. In a letter sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee today, the senators urged action on wages and working conditions as Restaurant Associates’ contract is renegotiated.

“We are concerned about the treatment and pay of Restaurant Associates’ employees.  Numerous news reports have exposed the severe impact of low wages on the workers’ lives,” wrote the Senators. “If Restaurant Associates is unable to treat and compensate its employees appropriately, we urge you to terminate the contract and find a different vendor.  The U.S. Senate should serve as an example for all employers, and the workers who support the work of the U.S. Senate must be given the respect and the opportunities they deserve.”

Full text of the letter sent to Rules Chairman Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Chuck Schumer is below:

 August 6, 2015 

Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Schumer:

We write to express our concern about the treatment of U.S. Senate cafeteria and catering employees. We ask you to address several issues the workers have raised numerous times with their current employer, the U.S. Senate contractor Restaurant Associates, and to take them into consideration during the company’s contract negotiations later this year. 

We are concerned about the treatment and pay of Restaurant Associates’ employees.  Numerous news reports have exposed the severe impact of low wages on the workers’ lives.  In addition, some of the 36 “transferred” employees who transitioned from being employed by the Architect of the Capitol to being employed by Restaurant Associates in 2008 have registered ongoing complaints about reduced work hours and an intimidating work environment.  Newer employees have raised the same grievances.  In the last few years, the company has cut the transferred catering workers’ and the new hires’ hours and generally assigned work schedules that make it difficult to get a second job.  Restaurant Associates has also begun assigning fewer workers to catering events, leading to understaffed events and overworked employees. 

We ask you to investigate these issues, to ask Restaurant Associates to address and resolve them in a manner satisfactory to their employees, and to consider them during the renegotiation of Restaurant Associates’ contract with the U.S. Senate.  It is important that all Senate cafeteria and catering workers are able to do their jobs in a positive and supportive work environment.  If Restaurant Associates is unable to treat and compensate its employees appropriately, we urge you to terminate the contract and find a different vendor.  The U.S. Senate should serve as an example for all employers, and the workers who support the work of the U.S. Senate must be given the respect and the opportunities they deserve.

Sincerely,