WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Mark Warner (D-VA), today sent a letter to Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) calling for contractors who do business with the United States Senate to pay their employees a living wage and provide fair health care and other benefits. The Senate Rules Committee is responsible for the administration of congressional buildings and services. 

The U.S. Congress should be working to improve the economic security of middle class families across the country. We should start right here in the U.S. Senate,” the senators wrote. “We ask that you work with the Sergeant at Arms to require U.S. Senate contractors, including Restaurant Associates, the current food and restaurant service contractor, to provide a living wage, fair health care and other benefits, and that give employees a voice in their workplace.”

It’s encouraging to see U.S. Senators step up to address the problem of low wages here at the Capitol. No one who works in these buildings should be homeless or have to rely on public assistance or charity to feed their families,” said Charles Gladden, a worker at the Dirksen Senate Cafeteria. “I hope that senators from both parties realize that this problem can be fixed here in the Senate, and they think about how they can help workers in similar situations now and in the future.”

Full text of the senators’ letter:

April 27, 2015

The Honorable Roy Blunt

Chairman, Senate Rules Committee

305 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Blunt:

As the Committee considers current and future contract negotiations with private companies to provide services to Senate Office buildings, we urge you to provide a preference in the contracting process to contractors that provide a living wage, fair healthcare and other benefits, and that give employees a voice in their workplace.  Employees working full time on taxpayer-funded contracts should not have to rely on federal benefits like food assistance and medical care to provide for their families.

President Obama’s Executive Order requires government contractors to pay employees $10.10 per hour.  Assuming a full-time schedule with no earned vacation or sick days, a worker could earn about $21,000 annually.

With the cost of living in the Washington DC metropolitan area among the highest in the United States, the Rules Committee should build on this minimum wage by requiring contractors doing business with the U.S. Senate to be model employers who treat their employees fairly.  People who work full time should be able to support themselves and their families.

Contractors should not be allowed to keep food and restaurant services prices low for Senators, Senate staff and visitors to the Senate while failing to pay their workers a living wage.  Nor should American taxpayers subsidize these contractors by allowing them to pay low wages that must be augmented by taxpayer-funded benefits.

The U.S. Congress should be working to improve the economic security of middle class families across the country.  We should start right here in the U.S. Senate.

We ask that you work with the Sergeant at Arms to require U.S. Senate contractors, including Restaurant Associates, the current food and restaurant service contractor, to provide a living wage, fair healthcare and other benefits, and that give employees a voice in their workplace.

We stand ready to work with you in the service of this goal.

Sincerely,                                           

RICHARD J. DURBIN

United States Senator

BERNARD SANDERS

United States Senator

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL

United States Senator

BARBARA BOXER

United States Senator

SHERROD BROWN

United States Senator

ROBERT CASEY

United States Senator

ED MARKEY

United States Senator

CORY BOOKER

United States Senator

MARK WARNER

United States Senator

CC:  Ranking Member Charles E. Schumer

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