Senate Meal Supplier Not Banned From Contracts Over Pay Charge

Source: Ben Penn, Daily Labor Report, October 12, 2017 (Subscription required)

The Labor Department won’t ban a Senate cafeteria contractor from government business over charges it didn’t pay workers properly. The DOL settled the case with contractor Restaurant Associates by entering into a compliance agreement with the food service provider, a company spokesman told Bloomberg BNA. The settlement doesn’t include the harsher penalties that had been sought by the Obama administration. A DOL administrative law judge approved the settlement earlier this month, according to an order appearing on the agency website Oct. 12. The company and a DOL regional solicitor’s office agreed that instead of a debarment, Restaurant Associates would abstain from bidding on new federal service contracts for two years, the order states. …


GAO: Architect of the Capitol’s Oversight of the Senate Food Service Contract
Source: William T. Woods, Government Accountability Office, GAO-17-481R: May 12, 2017

The Architect of the Capitol administers contracts to acquire goods and services for the U.S. Capitol complex. In 2015, questions arose regarding the wages for workers employed by the Senate’s food service contractor. We reviewed the AOC’s oversight of this contract and found that it had considered this contractor’s performance satisfactory in 2015, and extended its contract for another 7 years. However, after the wage issues were identified, the agency enhanced its oversight and required the contractor to provide data on wages paid to its employees.

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Feds Go After Concessions Company That Shorted Senate Workers $1 Million
Source: Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post, December 30, 2016

The Labor Department wants to bar a concessions company from receiving new federal contracts, after the company allegedly stiffed low-wage workers inside the U.S. Senate out of $1 million. In June, the department announced that Restaurant Associates, a subsidiary of the food service conglomerate Compass Group, would repay 674 Senate workers back wages after the company failed to pay employees the prevailing wage under federal law and didn’t compensate employees for all the hours they worked. Restaurant Associates has since paid back the workers. But the department went a step further on Thursday, filing a complaint requesting that the company be forbidden from receiving new contracts for a period of three years. The request will now go before an administrative law judge. If approved, it will only affect future contracts, not the current one at the Senate building, which runs through 2029, according to the Labor Department filing. … According to the Labor Department, Restaurant Associates misclassified workers by putting them in lower job categories, resulting in lower pay. The company said the misclassification was an honest mistake, resulting from “administrative technicalities related to [workers’] evolving day-to-day work responsibilities.” In a statement Friday, Restaurant Associates said it was “surprised and disappointed” that the Labor Department was seeking disbarment: “Restaurant Associates, which had no history of previous [prevailing wage] violations, fully cooperated in the investigation. The company immediately paid all back wages owed and made all changes to pay practices going forward as requested by DOL. … DOL’s decision is unprecedented in these circumstances.” …

US Capitol workers want their voices heard over wage theft
Source: Alba Morales, The Hill, September 20, 2016

Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that U.S. Senate federal contract workers like me had been robbed of over $1 million dollars from our paychecks by our employer, Compass Group. DOL found that Compass had been paying us less than the legal rates for our jobs, had not being paying us proper overtime or even for all the hours we worked, and had not kept proper payroll records. Within weeks, some of my co-workers started receiving as much as $20,000 in back-pay awards. But I only received $240, with no explanation of how it was calculated. I’ve worked at the Senate for over a decade and I believe the company likely stole much more than a couple of hundred bucks from me. And I’m not alone. Over a dozen Senate contract workers received little or no compensation as wage theft victims. Worst of all, neither myself, nor any of these workers were contacted or interviewed by the Labor Department or the Architect of the Capitol, the agency that oversees the contract, as part of the investigation. … The truth is that this is a symptom of a bigger problem: Workers and our representatives have not been invited to participate in the investigation and settlement talks even though we exposed the illegal conduct and are directly impacted by the results. If this were a court case, the victims would have their say, but we are low-wage workers who can’t afford a private attorney. That’s why workers are sending a letter to the Architect of the Capitol and the Department of Labor to request that our voices are respected. For us, respect means a willingness to bring workers into the process. …

House and Senate Restaurants: Current Operations and Issues for Congress
Source: Sarah J. Eckman, Congressional Research Service, August 23, 2016

Those involved with restaurant administration in the House and Senate have often considered how management choices affect operating costs, services available, oversight, and other elements of the restaurant systems. For much of their histories, the House and Senate operated their own restaurants, but since 1994 in the House and since 2008 in the Senate, private vendors have run the restaurants. In August 2015, the House entered an agreement with Sodexo to operate the 17 facilities in the House restaurant system, subject to direction from the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and the Committee on House Administration. In December 2015, the Senate entered a new contract with Restaurant Associates to operate the 12 facilities in the Senate restaurant system, subject to direction from the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) and the Committee on Rules and Administration. … Food and price issues, along with other day-to-day operational issues, including personnel matters, are largely the responsibility of the restaurant contractors. Some Members and observers have raised concerns about the degree of accountability for the House and Senate restaurant contractors, believing that the restaurants’ administration reflects upon Congress and that the restaurants should set an example for other businesses to follow. Although the House and Senate are responsible for restaurant oversight, the delegation of restaurant operations to private contractors means the chambers have less control over employee wages and benefits, procurement, or other business decisions that affect the restaurant systems. …

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Senate Cafeteria Workers Will Receive $1 million in Backpay from Restaurant Associates
Source: Lauren Godles, On Labor, July 26, 2016

Today, the Department of Labor announced today that the Senate cafeteria workers who were illegally denied wages will receive $1 million dollars in backpay from Restaurant Associates (RA) and its subcontractor, Personnel Plus. The money will be split among 674 employees, though DOL did not specify how much particular individuals will receive. … In an official investigation, DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) concluded that RA misclassified the cafeteria workers, in violation of the Service Contract Act. RA was also found to have violated the FLSA. According to the Associated Press, the WHD is considering whether RA should be banned from future government contracts. …

Most Senate cafeteria workers were mistreated on wages, top Capitol official says
Source: Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, March 21, 2016

A majority of the roughly 90 blue-collar restaurant workers serving the U.S. Senate were improperly classified by their private employer, a top U.S. Capitol administrator told a congressional committee last week, putting them at risk of being underpaid and prompting a Labor Department inquiry into the matter. The workers employed by Restaurant Associates have sought higher wages for more than a year, and a December contract renegotiation appeared on its face to deliver better pay and benefits. But several workers said they were subsequently reclassified into new, lower-paying jobs, thus cheating them out of the raise they were expecting. … Ayers’s deputies then interviewed 86 of the cafeteria and restaurant employees. That inquiry determined that 35 employees were classified properly, said Laura Condeluci, a spokeswoman for Ayers; the other 51 were not. Restaurant Associates immediately reclassified 35 of the 51 misclassified workers and delivered back pay, leaving 16 in dispute, Ayers said. Half of those are being resolved through negotiations; the rest have been referred to the U.S. Department of Labor for resolution.

Senate Cooks Say Contractor Dodged Raises
Source: Rhonda Smith, Daily Labor Report, February 1, 2016 (Subscription Required)

The seven-year contract extension between Restaurant Associates and the AOC took effect Dec. 14. As a result, Restaurant Associates increased wage rates for about 80 percent of the 115 employees who work in Dirksen Senate Office Building eateries and in the Senate dining room. In the complaint, signed by attorney George W. Faraday, legal and policy director for Good Jobs Nation, the group said the minimum wage rates to which Compass Group employees at the Senate are legally entitled are established by the federal Service Contract Act for each occupational category. The letter notes that the new wage rates resulted in substantial wage increases for Compass workers classified in the lowest-paid SCA occupational categories, including cashiers, dishwashers and food-service workers. But the federal contractor downgraded various cooks to food-service worker positions, it added, which reduced their hourly wage rate. …

Senate Food Workers Allege ‘Raise Theft’
Source: Bridget Bowman, Roll Call, January 29, 2016

According to the complaint, congressional staff members were told at a Dec. 14 briefing that minimum wages for Level 1 cooks would be raised by $3.65, to $17.45 an hour, and Level 2 cooks would would receive a $5.70 increase to $19.50 an hour. But the complaint alleges several cooks were reclassified as a lower-tier “food service worker,” meaning their wages did not increase as expected. Under the new contract, food service workers’  minimum wage increased to $13.80 per hour. A labor organizer said so far they know of roughly a dozen workers who have had their classification downgraded, even though they still perform the duties of a cook.

Opinion: Low-wage Senate workers get a raise — and then the shaft
Source: Catherine Rampell, Washington Post, January 28, 2016

Finally, after months of negotiations with the legislative agency that handles procurement at the Capitol, the company that runs the cafeteria agreed to a new contract giving its employees a sizable raise. It wasn’t everything the workers wanted, but it was still a big win. Some workers who had seen their pay stagnate for years would get a bump of about $5 per hour. … But it appears some workers were shortchanged, right under the noses of their Senate champions. Days after the new contract was signed, a cafeteria manager quietly began calling some workers into his office. He demanded they sign paperwork acknowledging new job titles. … Rather than getting the big raise Olotara expected as a cook — which would have upped his pay to $17.45 — he was entitled to just $13.80 as a “food service worker.” Sure, that’s better than his old pay (which was $12.30). But it’s nowhere near what he was promised — or what senators proclaimed workers such as Olotara were entitled to. … At least six others were reclassified in to lower-wage titles without any change in job duties, according to Good Jobs Nation, a labor organization that has been trying to unionize these workers. Good Jobs Nation recently filed a complaint with the Labor Department on the workers’ behalf. It argues that these effective demotions violate not only the new contract, but federal law, too.

Senate workers win raise in new contract — but not quite ‘$15 and a union’
Source: Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, December 15, 2015

The blue-collar workers who serve meals to U.S. senators, their staff and Capitol visitors have won a significant increase in wages under a new contract that took effect Monday. The agreement with Restaurant Associates, the private contractor that operates the Senate’s cafeteria, private dining room and other facilities, stands to help raise the living standards for dozens of workers. Many of them have been living on the edge of poverty, and the story of Charles Gladden, who was homeless and living outside a downtown Metro stop while working as a Senate custodian, pushed their plight into the national spotlight. The new contract, however, falls short of the demands made by labor activists, who called for a $15 minimum wage and the automatic recognition of a union organizing petition.

Senate Democrats Scold Capitol Worker Food Company
Source: Bridget Bowman, Roll Call, November 13, 2015

In the latest push for higher wages for Capitol food service workers, Senate Democrats are going to the source, calling on the food service vendor’s parent company to raise wages and allow for collective bargaining. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., led a majority of the Senate Democratic Caucus, including members of leadership such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, in sending a letter to the CEO of British company Compass Group, which is the parent company of Restaurant Associates, the vendor that operates food services in the Capitol Visitor Center and the Senate. … The lawmakers asked Compass Group to commit to an agreement with the union looking to organize the workers, fire any manager who engages in unlawful conduct, not pressure workers to refrain from organizing, and allow workers to form a union by a majority signing union authorization cards.

Senate Staffers Rally Behind Capitol Food Workers
Source: Bridget Bowman, Roll Call, October 28, 2015

A group of Senate staffers are organizing in solidarity with Capitol food service workers, joining the workers’ push for a union and higher wages. More than two dozen staffers, donning stickers that read “Senate Staff Solidarity,” took up two tables in the Dirksen Senate Office Building cafeteria Wednesday afternoon. The “brown bag boycott” sought to bring attention to the plight of Senate workers and show support for the workers’ push for union representation. … Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also stopped by the boycott. Brown has been one of the Democratic senators pushing for the Senate Rules and Administration Committee to utilize ongoing contract negotiations with the food service vendor, Restaurant Associates, to pressure the company to pay higher wages and allow for collective bargaining.

Sodexo Takes Over the House
Source: Bridget Bowman, Roll Call, August 11, 2015

… Sodexo, an international food vendor, officially took over the House dining services Monday, causing a number of areas to close for construction while posting new signs and decorations in the cafeterias that remained open. …. Sodexo took over for New York-based Restaurant Associates, which had run House dining services since December 2007. Restaurant Associates still runs services in the Senate and Capitol Visitor Center, though low wages have sparked a series of food service worker strikes. The workers in the Senate and CVC have also been fighting to be unionized, though House workers are already represented by Unite Here Local 23.

Senate Democrats Seek Raise for Workers in Their Cafe (Subscription Required)
Source: Ben Penn, Daily Labor Report, August 6, 2015

Nearly the entire Senate Democratic Caucus asked the chamber’s Rules and Administration Committee leadership Aug. 6 to consider the treatment and pay of Senate cafeteria and catering workers when negotiating a new contract with a private food service company. In a letter with 41 signatures, the senators urged committee Chairman Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and ranking member Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to consider the “numerous” employee complaints of low wages and poor working conditions when the committee oversees negotiations this year with Restaurant Associates for the Senate contract expiring in December. … Among the worker complaints documented in the letter, the Democratic caucus mentioned a rough transition for the 36 workers who formerly worked directly for the Architect of the Capitol before transferring to Restaurant Associates when the contract began in 2008. Those veteran employees as well as newer workers have “registered ongoing complaints about reduced work hours and an intimidating work environment,” the senators wrote. The contractor has also assigned schedules that hinder workers’ opportunities to find a second job and has scheduled fewer workers at catering events, the letter stated.

Senate Cafeteria Contractor Settles Labor Charges (Subscription Required)
Source: Ben Penn, Daily Labor Report, August 5, 2015

A federal contractor operating cafeterias at the Capitol Visitor Center and Dirksen Senate Office Building July 31 settled two unfair labor practice charges filed by a labor coalition that’s been pressuring the White House to mandate improved wages and working conditions for contracted workers.
The informal settlements followed a National Labor Relations Board regional director’s finding of merit in allegations that Restaurant Associates management at the two locations threatened retaliation, changed work schedules and interrogated employees who participated in an April strike (77 DLR A-11, 4/22/15) or were otherwise involved in the campaign. … Under the CVC settlement, Restaurant Associates agreed to post a work-site notice informing workers of their right to form a union and assuring them that management will neither interfere with those rights nor prevent workers from speaking with organizers. At the Dirksen cafe, the contractor agreed to post a notice that lists union rights and promises not to ask employees about protected concerted activities or warn them of negative consequences of joining a union.

Do federal contractors save the government money?
Source: Nancy Marshall-Genzer, Marketplace, July 31, 2015

Groups of federal contract workers have been walking off the job and holding protests every few months. It’s part of a campaign called Good Jobs Nation, backed by organized labor. It’s pushing for a $15 an hour minimum wage for federal contract workers and union representation. …. That’s led to a backlash against privatization, and assertions that it doesn’t save the government money. Tara Young is an organizer with Good Jobs Nation. I met Young in the park with the Senate cashier, Sontia Bailey. Young says the contractor employees make so little, they end up on government programs for the poor. Bailey is on Medicaid. “Workers are on Section 8, they use food stamps,” she says. “So we’re paying workers extra money, really, to help them with their low pay.” Young says taxpayers get hit up twice: once to pay for the contract workers’ salaries and again to pay for government programs they need to get by.

I work at the US Capitol and KFC. Colonel Sanders pays me more than Uncle Sam
Source: Sontia Bailey, The Guardian, July 21, 2015

Not many lobbyists enjoy as much access to US Senators as I do. I’m a cashier at the cafe inside the US Capitol….Even though I work full-time at the US Capitol, I only earn $10.59 an hour. Because the federal contractor that operates the cafe pays me so little, I had to pick-up a second job at KFC to make ends meet. It may be hard to believe, but Colonel Sanders actually pays me more than Uncle Sam does: I make $11 an hour at my fast food job….One of the presidential candidates recently said that people like me “need to work longer hours.” Well, there aren’t any more hours left in my day to work. I want the senators I serve to know that working two poverty-wage jobs has taken a terrible toll on my body and my health.

Three weeks ago, I lost my baby boy. I had a miscarriage in my home at 3am. I don’t remember much – I lost so much blood that I had to have several transfusions – but I do remember waking up in a hospital and learning that my son was dead.

No mother should have wake up to say “Goodbye sweetie” to the baby in their arms. My fiancé and I were devastated but I couldn’t even afford to grieve – I had to get back to work so I could pay for a decent funeral for my son….I know that once the senators read this they will offer me their condolences. But I don’t want sympathy – I just want them to make sure the contractor I work for at the US Capitol pays a living wage. This is the most important thing women like me need to fulfil our responsibilities to those we love.

Sodexo Named New House Food Service Vendor
Source: Bridget Bowman, Roll Call, June 9, 2015

Things will be changing soon in House cafeterias. Ed Cassidy, the House chief administrative officer, announced Wednesday that food service conglomerate Sodexo will be taking over as the food service vendor for all 10 dining areas in the House and House office buildings beginning on Aug. 10. …. Sodexo’s American headquarters are in Gaithersburg, Md., and it will be taking over House food operations from Restaurant Associates, the New York-based company that has been running the House dining services since December 2007. ….. The new food services contract comes at a time when some lawmakers are attempting to raise wages and better working conditions for Capitol workers…..Cassidy said the House did not make any stipulations about union representation in the procurement, instead allowing bidders to present their own proposals. Sodexo voluntarily said it would recognize the union and assume its contract for representing House workers…..

Why House cafeteria workers are paid better than Senate cafeteria workers /Hint: It has to do with a union.
Source: Lydia DePillis, Washington Post, Wonkblog, May 5, 2015

After 30 years of working as a cook in the Rayburn House Office Building cafeteria, Rickie Toon, 60, makes about $18 an hour. Over the years he and his wife — who works as a screener for all the mail that enters the Capitol complex — have bought a house, raised three kids and now even help send a grandson to college. He’s employed by a contractor called Restaurant Associates, but the job is everything one might expect from working for the federal government, with affordable health care benefits, a pension, and little chance of being fired or laid off.

Across the Mall, it’s a different story for Charles Gladden, the 63-year-old worker in the Senate cafeteria profiled by the Washington Post a couple weeks ago. He’s also employed by Restaurant Associates, and tries to help provide for three kids. But unlike Toon, he’s homeless, because he doesn’t have enough left over to pay for a place to live. Conditions are similar, if not quite as drastic, for the rest of the Senate side workers who’ve been speaking out lately about their pay — as well as the challenge of making ends meet when Congress goes into recess and their services are no longer needed.

Why the huge difference between the two food service operations? Well, the House side is unionized, and has been for about 20 years. The workers’ contract with Restaurant Associates sets minimum salaries for all staff, from $10.65 for a waiter to $17.45 for an a la carte cook, with twice-yearly raises. Tthe union that represents them, UNITE-HERE Local 23, says the average wage is $14.30. Restaurant Associates, their employer, declined to comment on wage levels.) They get vacation time and paid sick leave, as well as a feeling of having a voice on the job….