WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate cafeteria workers tell Latino Rebels that Restaurant Associates, the vendor that runs the dining facilities in the Senate, announced Wednesday that 38 cafeteria workers will be laid off on July 28.
The all-hands meeting was convened Wednesday at 2:45 pm by a Restaurant Associates vice president after months of cut shifts and a general air of job insecurity for the workers who handle food services in the Senate.
“We asked her where the money went,” said a Senate cafeteria worker who received a lay-off notice and spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The vice president of HR from Restaurant Associates told us she didn’t know what happened to the money.”
In April, Restaurant Associates received $3.75 million from the Architect of the Capitol, the federal agency that governs Senate facilities. The agency, in turn, assured Senate Democrats that there would be no layoffs in the Senate cafeteria for the rest of the fiscal year.
“There was a clear, unambiguous promise that there will be no layoffs until after September 30, and I want to know what happened,” said a visibly frustrated Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who told Latino Rebels she had made two calls to the Senate Rules Committee to inquire about the situation.
Cafeteria workers tell Latino Rebels they went to the office of Rules Committee chair Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Wednesday afternoon for answers.
“They told us they want to know where the money went, too,” said one of the workers who lamented having to tell his partner and their children that he’s facing imminent joblessness.
A letter from Restaurant Associates that served as a lay-off notice to the workers cited a decline in cafeteria customers since before the pandemic.
Here's one of the letters given by Restaurant Associates to a Senate cafeteria worker as a layoff notice. pic.twitter.com/2TrHz0Bote
— Pablo Manríquez (@PabloReports) July 13, 2022
The company’s report of low numbers, however, runs contrary to observed fact.
While photos and videos are strictly prohibited in the Senate cafeteria, Latino Rebels can confirm that, since the COVID protocols limiting access to the Capitol complex were lifted beginning in late March, the Senate cafeteria has been packed—with staffers, members of the public, lobbyists, and other advocates, plus groups of tourists, having all returned. On some days when the Senate is in session, there is not an open seat to be found in either of the Dirksen Senate Office Building dining rooms currently in use.
“Restaurant Associates has no respect for the Senators,” said one cafeteria worker. “They told the senators there would be no layoffs, then they ran off with the money. Now we’re getting f–ked over. It ain’t right.”
On Wednesday, the Senate cafeteria was slammed with customers, but at least a half-dozen Senate cafeteria workers called in sick.
“For the ones who got layoffs, Restaurant Associates told them if they don’t use their sick days, they will lose them,” a cafeteria worker told Latino Rebels.
This is the second time this year the Senate cafeteria workers have faced layoffs. In April, a group of Democratic Senators worked with the Architect of the Capitol to find the funds to save their jobs.
Sources close to Sens. Warren and Klobuchar tell Latino Rebels that the Rules Committee team is scrambling to find out where the money went and determine the next steps for addressing another crisis of layoffs in the Senate cafeteria.
Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports