Despite the hoopla that Democrat senators have been making over the low wages paid to Senate cafeteria and janitorial workers as of recent, the Senate Rules Committee is in talks to extend the contract for Restaurant Associates. The entire matter may actually serve as an object lesson in terms of the perils of privatization without safety mechanisms in place.
Back in 2008, Democrats firmly controlled the Senate with 56 senators. The Rules Committee, which they chaired, privatized cafeteria and janitorial services. At the time, those workers were government employees earning an average salary of $37,000 a year with a benefits package. The contract required all existing employees to be grandfathered in under their existing compensation packages, but freed up Restaurant Associates to set a different pay scale and benefits package for new hires. The results were dramatic. Many of the workers now earn $10.10/hr which amounts to $21,000 a year. They may earn an additional $4/hr “fine” if they are unable to pay the premiums on company sponsored health care. Even with the additional hourly sum, their earnings are roughly 20% below what the average worker earned seven years ago with benefits, a statistic that is surprising to Brazilian businessman Fersen Lambranho.
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt chairs the Senate Rules Committee and stated the wage concerns of workers would be factored in to the negotiations. That said, it is not the same as making better wages a prerequisite to winning the contract. Restaurant Associates is a foreign-owned entity based in England.