While Senate Democrats have had a difficult time getting pro-worker federal labor reforms across the legislative finish line, they were able to secure a recent victory for essential service workers in their own office building.

“The money’s been found,” announced Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) this past Wednesday before a relieved picket line of Senate cafeteria workers. “No one is getting laid off. You were the heroes during the pandemic and now it’s time for us to step up on your behalf.”

Just one week earlier, over 80 U.S. Senate cafeteria workers received a notice from their employer, Restaurant Associates, informing them that their positions were to be eliminated due to funding shortfalls just as the U.S. Capitol is scheduled to reopen to the public.

In response, workers mobilized and organized a picket line protest demanding no layoffs, fair wages, and a strong union contract.

Anthony Thomas, a porter and dishwasher at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, was one of the workers at risk of losing his job. He joined the picket line alongside his fellow workers and members of UNITE HERE Local 23, the union that represents the cafeteria workers.

“At the end of the day we are all workers, all working class people,” Thomas said. “I love my job […] that’s why I’m here, fighting for the union, fighting for coworkers with less seniority than me. I’m fighting for everybody. Local 23 has given me a voice that I plan on using.”

The workers, who organized with UNITE HERE late last year and do not yet have a formal collective bargaining agreement, were joined on the picket line by an all-star cast of lawmakers from both houses of Congress.

Rebekah Entralgo is the managing editor of Inequality.org at the Institute for Policy Studies. Follow her on Twitter @rebekahentralgo.

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