Workers in U.S. Senate offices and other federally owned buildings went on a day-long strike yesterday in support of increased wages and benefits. Bertrand Olotara, one of the cooks in the US Senate, wrote about their situation.
Every day, I serve food to some of the most powerful people on earth, including many of the senators who are running for president: I’m a cook for the federal contractor that runs the US Senate cafeteria. But today, they’ll have to get their meals from someone else’s hands, because I’m on strike.
I am walking off my job because I want the presidential hopefuls to know that I live in poverty. Many senators canvas the country giving speeches about creating “opportunity” for workers and helping our kids achieve the “American dream” – most don’t seem to notice or care that workers in their own building are struggling to survive.
I’m a single father and I only make $12 an hour; I had to take a second job at a grocery store to make ends meet. But even though I work seven days a week – putting in 70 hours between my two jobs – I can’t manage to pay the rent, buy school supplies for my kids or even put food on the table. I hate to admit it, but I have to use food stamps so that my kids don’t go to bed hungry.
I’ve done everything that politicians say you need to do to get ahead and stay ahead: I work hard and play by the rules; I even graduated from college and worked as a substitute teacher for five years. But I got laid-off and I now I’m stuck trying to make ends meet with dead-end service jobs.
My co-workers and I are on strike because we want the current president – and those running to succeed him – to make sure that federal contracts are preferentially awarded to good American companies that pay workers a living wage, offer decent benefits like paid leave and allow us to collectively bargain so that we don’t need to strike to have our voices heard.
Most of the candidates know where to find me. I’ll be eagerly awaiting a response.
What I am afraid of is that the response will be that he gets fired.
This has to be embarrassing for that body who love to bloviate about their love of hard-working Americans, except that the members of that body seem to be incapable of embarrassment as evidenced by the fact that they seem perfectly comfortable drawing their large salaries and great benefits without doing much work.
We need to pay everyone a living wage of at least $15/hour pegged to rise with inflation. Right now.