Striking Federal Contract Workers Stage Capitol Sit-In

PHOTO: Warner Massey, right, a contract employee who works in the Senate, and other low-wage employees stage a strike after a new contract for the workers failed to meet the $15 per hour demand, in Washington, D.C., Dec. 8, 2015.Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP Photo
Warner Massey, right, a contract employee with the Goodwill of Greater Washington who works in the Senate, and other low-wage employees stage a strike in the Dirksen cafeteria after a new contract for the workers failed to meet the $15 per hour demand, in Washington, D.C., Dec. 8, 2015.

More than two hundred striking federal contract workers seeking a $15 hourly wage and the right to form a union descended on Capitol Hill Tuesday for a sit-in rally in a Senate cafeteria and protest at Sen. Ted Cruz’s office.

Workers from several federal agencies, including Senate cafeteria worker Sontia Bailey – who recently secured Vice President Biden’s endorsement of the worker movement –rallied in the Dirksen Senate Office Building cafeteria.

Faith leaders supporting the effort delivered a letter to the representative of the Compass Group, the British food services company contracted by the Senate, before Capitol Police escorted workers out of the cafeteria.

The letter asked for the company to allow workers a “seat at the table” for the ongoing contract negotiations for the workers.

“Allow your workers the opportunity to self-organize and speak with one voice,” the letter reads.

A spokesperson for the Architect of the Capitol has not returned a request for comment on the negotiations.

Workers later descended on Sen. Ted Cruz’s office, where several dressed as the infamous “Grinch” delivered a fake award to the Texas Republican, singling him out as a prominent Republican and member of the Senate Rules Committee negotiating a new worker contract.

Organizers and protesters did not catch Cruz, but met briefly with the Texas senator’s press secretary asking him to pass along their message, which he agreed to do.

Several ministers, striking workers and Cruz’s spokesperson ended the protest by joining hands for a prayer.

Dr. Rev. Leslie Copeland of Grace and Race Ministries, who led the prayer, reminded Cruz’s staff in the prayer that “with great blessings comes great responsibility.”

“This is not really about policy, this is about people. It's about how people are able to care for their families,” she said.

Cruz’s office has not returned a request for comment on the meeting or the senator’s position on the worker movement.