The contractor, Restaurant Associates, had informed dozens of low-paid, hourly workers that they no longer will have jobs in just a matter of days, according to multiple sources, with multiple estimates that the number is as high as 81.
But Democratic senators announced at a demonstration Wednesday afternoon that they have found the funds to stop the layoffs that had been set to begin next week, though the company has yet to confirm that no one will be let go.
“The money’s been found. Nobody needs to be laid off. We are in this together for every worker,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told the picketers, after she and Sens. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Alex Padilla of California and Jeff Merkley of Oregon met with the Architect of the Capitol earlier Wednesday afternoon.
A company spokesman said they are still awaiting “official word” that there is money to save the jobs, but said Restaurant Associates is “very encouraged” by the news.
“While we haven’t yet received official word from the Architect of the Capitol we’re very encouraged by this report and will continue to work collaboratively with UNITE HERE, the Senate and the Architect of the Capitol to support our employees,” said a Restaurants Associates spokesperson, referring to the labor union that workers recently joined.
But cafeteria workers have long complained their jobs continue to be threatened by the company, which has cited instability in the budget process, meaning any victory now could be short-lived.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who was also at the rally, laid out three steps members can take immediately to help Senate cafeteria workers: Check in each month with Restaurant Associates, and the Architect of the Capitol, work to reopen the building to more tourists and encourage their staff to buy lunch in the building rather than off the grounds.
“You were here on the front line. You were here in the cafeteria. You were here having to have schedules change and hours change and having to have your families at home,” Klobuchar said. “It was really hard. And you hung in there for us” throughout the pandemic.
Earlier Wednesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown and a number of his colleagues had said they were calling on Congress to provide adequate funding to help save those jobs, criticizing the company for the layoffs and alleging that it appears to be retaliating for the workers’ efforts to form a union.
“This is a private company that frankly doesn’t love the fact that they’ve organized a union,” Brown said. “I think that’s part of the problem from their viewpoint, but we will fight for those workers.” He added that they work “every bit as hard as any member of Congress and they should be treated with dignity.”
The Ohio Democrat has a history of working with Senate cafeteria employees. Notably, he advocated for a pay raise for them a few years back.
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey agreed with Brown that the layoffs were related to the workers’ unionizing recently.
“I think that…