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Wage Protest Delays Lunch in Dirksen

Bend the Arc protesters demanded higher wages for cafeteria workers
Protesters declared their efforts a success after disrupting lunch for Senate staffers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Just as the lunch rush began in the Dirksen Senate Office Building cafeteria, protesters broke through to demand a $15 per hour minimum wage and a union for federal contract workers.

Bend the Arc Jewish Action, an advocacy group for progressive domestic policies, was on Capitol Hill Tuesday for National Lobby Day and about 200 protesters marched through the cafeteria.

Protesters introduced themselves to the cafeteria workers, delivered remarks on why the workers need to have a voice on the job, and demanded that workers have regular meetings with the architect of the Capitol.Capitol Police threatened to arrest anyone chanting and the cafeteria was quickly cleared except for about 30 protesters who eventually left in silence roughly five minutes later, leaving behind a few posters.

If the protesters had not dispersed and were arrested, they could have been charged with demonstrating in an area where it is not permitted because demonstrating is against the law in congressional buildings.

“The police were fairly quick to let us know that they were prepared to escalate and arrest,” said Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, the group’s organizational arm.

As staffers continued to swarm in for lunch, the protesters continued their lobbying efforts elsewhere on Capitol Hill.

“We felt that our message was heard; it was effective,” Cotler said.

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