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NLRB Affirms that U.S. Capitol Contractors Broke the Law by Retaliating Against Protesting Workers

The Dirksen Senate Office Building, one of two federal buildings involved

The Dirksen Senate Office Building, one of two federal buildings involved

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has determined that the food service vendors at the U.S. Capitol who were the target of protests likely violated labor laws by retaliating against their workers.  In two separate cases filed in April and May, complaints were made against Restaurant Associates by workers at the Capitol Visitors Center and the Dirksen Senate Office Building, respectively.  Both parties accused management of interrogation and coercive statements following Good Jobs First’s organized protest.  The NLRB investigation found merit in all but one of the complaints, which had been voluntarily withdrawn.  A settlement was reached in both cases on July 31st.

Background on both cases comes from Roll Call:

In the CVC case, workers alleged their manager threatened their jobs; required them to work later “without reasonable or customary notice;” imposed more onerous duties on the workers who participated in the strike; stated the striking workers were unreliable; and ordered employees not to speak with representatives of Good Jobs Nation, a coalition of labor groups that has been organizing the federal worker strikes.

The Dirksen Senate Office Building case involved a worker whose supervisor allegedly questioned him about his involvement with the labor organizers, and made statements about what it would mean for the worker’s family if he lost his job.

At the time of the protests, Our Future’s Robert Borosage wrote about the reasons workers joined the labor action:

This week in Washington, hundreds of low wage federal government contract workers walked off their jobs, demonstrating for a living wage and a union. They included Senate janitors and food service workers – the workers who serve the senators their food and clean up the messes they leave.

… The sad reality is that the United States government remains the country’s largest low-wage job creator. All those senators tramping through New Hampshire promising to rebuild the middle class are part of a Congress that doesn’t pay the workers who serve them enough to lift a family out of poverty.

Less than a week later, Roll Call released a video which they claimed showed workers facing instant retaliation.

Following the settlement, Restaurant Associates spokesman Sam Souccar said his group agreed to settle the case rather than go to trial, but admitted no wrongdoing.  Restaurant Associates is currently negotiating a new contract to provide the same services at the Capitol.

“Restaurant Associates continues to respect all employee rights including the right to engage in or refrain from protected concerted activity,” Souccar said. “Toward that end we have agreed to reassure employees of this long-standing policy rather than engage in contentious and prolonged litigation.”

Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director of Change to Win, questioned these assertions.  His organization, a coalition of labor unions who helped aid the Good Jobs First campaign, told Roll Call:

“It’s ironic that Congress passed labor laws that they don’t follow at the U.S. Capitol.  The Senate must guarantee that contractors uphold the right of workers to organize free from threats and intimidation.”


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