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Capitol Workers to Strike Ahead of GOP Debate

Sanders will once again join the workers at a strike on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sanders will once again join the workers at a strike on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Hours before a Republican primary debate, workers in the U.S. Capitol are going on strike and calling on the GOP senators running for president to help the workers who serve them.  

Senate food-service workers and some cleaning staff are set to walk off their jobs Tuesday morning to call for higher wages and a union. The event is set for Tuesday to highlight GOP presidential contenders who, in the opinion of the striking workers, have been silent on the Capitol workers’ low wages. With the presidential hopefuls set to take the stage in Milwaukee, Wis., for the Fox Business Network debate, the strike organizers have specifically called out Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas.  

“Senator Rubio promises to create good jobs for America, but he hasn’t helped the low-wage workers who serve him every day,” James Powell, a chef at the members’ dining room, said in a news release. “He likes the fancy dishes we prepare, but he doesn’t care that we can’t afford to feed ourselves.”  

A strike organizer told CQ Roll Call Rubio and Cruz were named because they have spoken with workers about their movement. The organizer said the other GOP senators running for president, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have not had contact with workers about the issue.  

However, Cruz’s spokesman refuted that statement, and wrote in an email Monday that Cruz has not spoken with anyone about the issue and has not taken a position on the movement. Rubio’s spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.  

But another senator with White House ambitions will join the workers on strike in Upper Senate Park. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., who has attended several strikes in the past, will be in attendance according to the event’s organizers.  

“The federal government should lead by example,” Sanders said in a statement, “and make sure taxpayer-subsidized federal contractors like Compass Group pay a living wage of $15 and allow workers to organize without retaliation.”  

The Senate’s food service vendor, Restaurant Associates, is a subsidiary of the British corporation, Compass Group. The Architect of the Capitol is currently in the process of renegotiating Restaurant Associates’ Senate contract, which expires on Dec. 1.  

Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and a number of Senate staffers have rallied behind food service workers as they have gone on strike several times over the past 10 months to push for higher wages and a union.

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