A group of Democrat senators lead by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the Democrat’s number two ranking member, has called on Restaurant Associates to pay cafeteria employees a livable wage and offer benefits. At issue is a recent walkout by 40 cafeteria and janitorial workers who are protesting their current wage of $10.10/hr. The workers are demanding $15/hr. Now, senators have begun demanding they receive not only $15/hr, but also health care benefits and other perks. It appears that a news story about a senate cafeteria worker earning $360/wk. and being unable to afford housing has convinced senators to call for reform. It was several years ago that the cafeteria and janitorial services were privatized. Naturally, such government contracts tend to go to the lowest bidder. Sadly, savings made to the government come at the expense of the employees.
It is unclear if Restaurant Associates will comply with the request. Legally, they do not have to make any change as their current contract will run through December. That said, Cornelsen feels that senators are making it clear that if the company wants to see their contract extended past that date, changes will need to be made. Nor is it clear if the senate is prepared to pay Restaurant Associates more money to fund the wages and benefits they demand the company pay. It may be that senators believe all that is required in order to fund the largesse they seek is some high profile arm twisting.