Food Service Workers on Capitol Hill March on Mitch McConnell’s House, Demanding Back Pay and Recall Rights
On October 7, 2020, members of UNITE HERE Local 23 rallied in front of the Madison Building of the Library of Congress and marched to Mitch McConnell’s house demanding money that workers are owed by a federal contractor, I.L. Creations, which operates cafeterias at various federal agencies in D.C., including the Library of Congress, the USDA, Department of State.
UNITE HERE members were joined by other federal union local members in a show of solidarity, braving the pandemic, and maintaining physical distancing while making their voices heard.
Left without jobs, without health insurance and with their unemployment benefits about to run out in this precarious time, even food service workers who work in the corridors of power are in danger. Workers are owed money and unused leave payouts and I.L. Creations won’t even come to the table, though other similarly-situated companies in the region have.
A list of I.L. Creations illegal undertakings include:
- Steve Choi, ILC’s former CEO, was found guilty for ILC not paying $10 million worth of employment and sales tax.
- ILC owes at least $10,000 to the union training fund, which they were required to pay by the CBA they bargained.
- Over the last few years ILC has failed to make health care payments on behalf of employees and had to enter into long term payment plans to the union health care fund under court orders.
- The union won an arbitration against ILC for refusing to allow African-American workers to work in certain positions. ILC refused to comply with the arbitrators ruling and the union had to take the case to civil court, where a judge again ruled in the union’s favor.
The UNITE HERE members want money that they are owed by the company (recipient of GSA contracts to provide cafeteria services in federal agencies) and called upon Congress to ensure recall rights, the ability to be reinstated when buildings across DC eventually reopen. At this point it is not even clear if these union members demanding their rights will even be brought back, much less paid what they are owed. The vast majority of UNITE HERE workers impacted by this, predictably, are people of color and Latino immigrants – the very populations most at risk for illness and death during the pandemic.
The fact that federal contracts, that is the money of the American people, is awarded to companies that are breaking the law, is something that is not unique to the Trump administration. But the extent of the corruption, and the devastating impact during the COVID-19 pandemic on our siblings in the so-called “hospitality” and related industries in DC, shows how disgraceful and cynical capitalism is, as interpreted by an administration that would love to see an at-will, unprotected workforce sacrificed to “the economy”. Right now, that is exactly what is happening.