Contract cafeteria employees and custodians working in the U.S. Senate went on strike April 22, demanding a raise for contract workers at federal institutions to $15 an hour.
The Senate workers joined forces with contract workers from the Capitol Visitor Center, the Pentagon, Union Station, the National Zoo and Smithsonian Institution to campaign for an increase in their wages, Roll Call reported.
Demonstrators are asking for President Barack Obama to sign an executive order that gives federal contractors more incentive to raise their minimum wages, to provide more benefits, including paid sick days, and an increase in collecting bargaining rights when it comes time to negotiate another contract or pay raise.
Protestors had one prominent voice on their side: Sen. Bernie Sanders. The senator from Vermont is known for his liberal views on wage equality and attended the rally.
“If you have a contract with the United States Congress, and I don’t know all the details about who does, those people should be paid a living wage. The preference should be given to those contractors who are prepared to pay a living wage,” Sanders told Roll Call the day before the rally took place.
Sanders has been flirting with a run for the Democratic nomination for president, with an expected announcement on his future plans to come by the end of April. If he chooses to run, he will be the first Democrat to officially declare their candidacy and challenge Hillary Clinton for the nomination.
At the rally, Sanders continued to express his support for the demonstrators.
“What we’re saying today is pretty simple. The taxpayers of this country want to make sure that when government contracts are made those employers who get those contracts pay employees a living wage, that they allow their workers to form a union, that they provide good benefits to their workers,” Sanders said.
The government contractors rally follows another high-profile demonstration among employees in the fast food industry. Earlier in April, workers organized a national day of protest to raise awareness about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, BuzzFeed reported.
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