Booker, Klobuchar, Warren Help Save Senate Cafeteria Workers From Layoffs

Apr 8, 2022
3:53 PM

Pablo Manríquez/Latino Rebels

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Restaurant Associates, the company that manages Senate cafeteria workers, confirmed on Friday that the layoffs announced a week ago have been canceled.

“HR told us no layoffs,” texted a worker who had taken her employment status into her own hands after receiving a layoff notice last week, going door-to-door in the Senate on Tuesday with her colleagues to plead with senators and their staff —whom they serve every day in the cafeteria— to save their jobs. “We told Restaurant Associates we want it in writing and they said they will send us a letter in the mail.”

Some Republican senators were quick to deflect this week when informed by Latino Rebels of the imminent layoffs of workers who served them food and coffee throughout the pandemic—including during the deadly assault on the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.

“I got too many things on my plate right now to think about the cafeteria workers,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-AL).

Even Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the ranking member on the Rules Committee —which, alongside the Committee on Administration, has jurisdiction over the cafeteria— eventually abandoned hope of saving the cafeteria workers’ jobs.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) stepped up, however, meeting with the workers to hear their stories in an off-the-record meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

At the meeting, an idea was floated to divert funds from the Architect of the Capitol to protect the jobs of the cafeteria workers—something Sen. Blunt said had never been done before during his time on the Rules Committee.

With Booker’s prodding, Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Elizabeth Warren (MA) teamed up to see the solution through.

Klobuchar, chair of Rules Committee, was opaque about the details of the deal struck with the Architect of the Capitol —the federal agency responsible for the operation and maintenance of the complex— that moved money around to save the workers. But she was clear about one thing: the more customers the Senate cafeteria workers have, the easier it will be to keep the workers in their jobs when the $3.75 million in reallocated money runs out five months from now, according to Booker.

Meanwhile, the workers themselves are jubilant.

“Booker’s our guy,” said an immigrant cashier who had not received a layoff notice but smiled at the celebration of her coworkers whose jobs had been saved.

“Now we have five months to find other jobs here in the building away from Restaurant Associates,” said another cafeteria worker. “I don’t want to go through this uncertainty again. It makes me sick, literally: I cannot sleep and I feel like I’m going to vomit all the time when this happens.”


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports