More than 80 cafeteria workers on Capitol Hill are set to lose their jobs because of a drop in revenue stemming from fewer staffers working in person.
On Friday, Restaurant Associates, the contractor that runs the Senate cafeterias, announced that 81 employees will lose their jobs following a loss in business during the pandemic. The union representing the workers called on lawmakers to help save their jobs before the end of the week, when senators leave Washington, D.C., for recess.
Sen. Mike Braun (R., Ind.) sent a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), whose staff maintains telework policies except for a receptionist at his office's front desk, calling for an end to all pandemic-era policies. Democrats’ reluctance to end COVID-19 policies, Braun wrote, is responsible for the loss of these jobs.
"The Senate restaurants have been acutely impacted by the Senate’s reticence to return to normal," Braun wrote. "Sales are a fraction of where they were before the buildings were closed to the public. The plan to slowly open the buildings over the next six months will not restore business to normal levels, and as a result, dozens of restaurant employees will unfortunately be laid off this month."
The Washington Free Beacon previously reported on Democratic lawmakers refusing to end their teleworking policies, first put in place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much of the country has returned to work, Democrats including Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) still had the luxury of working from home at the end of March.
The workers facing layoffs staged a protest on Wednesday afternoon, calling for protections and greater benefits. Politico reported on Wednesday that some Democrats have a proposal to save the jobs of the workers, although details remain unclear.
"It is time for the Senate to follow the lead of so many other Americans and return to normal. Doing so will be critical in preventing future layoffs of hardworking men and women who provide service to the Senate," Braun told Schumer. "I urge you to allow for increased public access to the Capitol building and Senate office buildings and to return to public visitation policies for the Capitol campus as quickly as possible."
As in the Senate, the Democratic-run House still has yet to return to pre-pandemic practices. Last month, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) extended proxy voting for members until May 14. The Free Beacon previously reported on abuse of the practice by such Democratic lawmakers as Rep. Matt Cartwright (Pa.), who has voted by proxy several times but has also spent thousands of campaign dollars traveling to luxury hotels. During one incident, Cartwright said he was "unable to physically attend proceedings in the House chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency" but spent more than $2,000 on lodging at a "chic Southern style" hotel in Atlanta.
Republicans in both the Senate and House have proposed bills to end all pandemic restrictions nationwide, although none have reached President Joe Biden's desk.