Sanders, Senate Leaders Tell Senate Contractor to Let Workers Organize

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) led a letter today with 33 of his colleagues calling on the company that employs Senate cafeteria and catering workers to respect their right to organize.

“Employees working full time in the U.S. Senate should not be living in poverty,” the senators wrote in the letter to Compass Group CEO Richard Cousins. “Yet with the cost of living in the Washington metropolitan area among the highest in the United States, there have been numerous reports of Senate cafeteria workers forced to take a second job, rely on public assistance programs, and in at least one instance, into homelessness.” 

The workers are currently pushing for a union through the majority sign up process, but Restaurant Associates, a subsidiary of the Compass Group that employs Senate dining and catering workers, has resisted the drive, even after the National Labor Relations Board upheld charges against the company regarding discriminatory and intimidating behavior.

“Although Restaurant Associates settled these charges by promising to end further unlawful intimidation, it has been reported that within weeks, Restaurant Associates’ President Ed Sirhal took advantage of the Senate recess to hold a meeting with workers to discourage their organizing campaign,” the senators wrote. “The time has come for the Compass Group to ensure Senate cafeteria workers have a model employer that addresses its workers’ legitimate concerns.”

Senate Democrats asked the Rules Committee in August to investigate how Restaurant Associates is treating workers.

The letter was signed by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Richard Durbin (D-Mich.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Click here to read the letter.