Not for the first time, a tragedy leading to the closure of Capitol offices has hit hardest the voiceless workers who serve the Congressional campus.
The impromptu June 11 federal holiday declared to honor the memory of the late President Ronald Reagan exposed a glaring inequity on Capitol Hill. While thousands of House and Senate staffers and other government employees received a day off with pay, House Restaurant Services employees had to use accrued sick days or vacation time to receive pay for the day — because the executive order calling the holiday made no mention of so-called “contract” employees. (Senate restaurant workers were more lucky: Unlike their House counterparts, they are federal employees.)
Count us as supporters of an effort led by Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Max Sandlin (D-Texas) to win back pay for those employees.
Kucinich summed up the situation well. “This is just a question of fairness,” he said. “They are the lowest-paid workers on Capitol Hill. … Why should they be punished?”
We hope the House will follow the precedent it set in 2001 following the discovery of anthrax-tainted letters, which led to the closure of House office buildings. In that case, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) led the charge for House restaurant workers to receive compensation.
Roll Call has always strongly supported the idea that Members of Congress and their staffs should be well compensated and well taken care of as part of making government service attractive to the best and the brightest. It’s hard to imagine that House Members wouldn’t want to see fair return for the men and women who labor to keep them fed.