Reports about a Senate cafeteria worker who makes so little money he is homeless are prompting calls for change from Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers led by the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, released a letter Monday urging the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees Senate services, to provide a preference to contractors that pay a living wage and fair health insurance and benefits.
"The U.S. Congress should be working to improve the economic security of middle class families across the country. We should start right here in the U.S. Senate," said the letter to Republican Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, the Rules Committee chairman.
It followed reports in the Washington Post and CNN profiling Charles Gladden, a 63-year-old who makes about $360 a week in take-home pay doing janitorial work in the Senate cafeteria. He said he gives some of his paycheck to his kids and grandkids, suffers from diabetes and has so little left over that he has not had a fixed address for five years and sleeps outside a Metro station.
Gladden drew attention while taking part in a one-day strike last week by federal contract workers to call for higher wages from government contractors.
"No one who works in these buildings should be homeless or have to rely on public assistance or charity to feed their families," Gladden said in a statement released along with the senators' letter.
Signing the letter along with Durbin were independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Barbara Boxer of California, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Mark Warner of Virginia.
In a statement, Blunt said he appreciated the work of Senate workers and agreed they should receive a fair wage--adding that under the current contract, the average Senate restaurant worker receives an hourly wage well above the minimum of $10.10 for employees of federal contractors set by President Barack Obama.
"Nevertheless, their concerns will be kept in mind as the contract comes up for renegotiation," Blunt said.