Monday, June 09, 2008
The Washington Post reports....
Apparently he's wrong, they can!
Senate Votes To Privatize Its Failing Restaurants
Year after year, decade upon decade, the U.S. Senate's network of restaurants has lost staggering amounts of money -- more than $18 million since 1993, according to one report, and an estimated $2 million this year alone, according to another ... without a $250,000 subsidy from taxpayers, the Senate won't make payroll next month....
In a masterful bit of understatement, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Rules and Administrations Committee, which oversees the operation of the Senate, blamed "noticeably subpar" food and service.
Foot traffic bears that out. Come lunchtime, many Senate staffers trudge across the Capitol and down into the basement cafeteria on the House side. On Wednesdays, the lines can be 30 or 40 people long. House staffers almost never cross the Capitol to eat in the Senate cafeterias...
Last week, in a late-night voice vote, the Senate agreed to privatize the operation of its food service, a decision that would, for the first time, put it under the control of a contractor and all but guarantee lower wages and benefits for the outfit's new hires.
Sen. Feinstein ... said she had no choice. "It's cratering," she said of the restaurant system. "Candidly, I don't think the taxpayers should be subsidizing something that doesn't need to be. There are parts of government that can be run like a business and should be run like businesses."
But Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), speaking for the group of senators who opposed privatizing the restaurants, said that "you cannot stand on the Senate floor and condemn the privatization of workers, and then turn around and privatize the workers here in the Senate and leave them out on their own."
Operation of the House cafeterias was privatized in the 1980s by a Democratic-controlled Congress. Restaurant Associates of New York, the current House contractor, would take over the Senate facilities this fall. The company wins high praise from most staffers and lawmakers, who say they are pleased with the wide variety of new items offered every few months.Exactly what they'll be saying about Medicare and Social Security in, oh, about 20 years.
Most important to Feinstein, Restaurant Associates turns a substantial profit -- paying $1.2 million in commissions to the House since 2003...
When Democrats took power last year, Feinstein ordered several studies, including hiring a consultant to examine management practices, before deciding privatization was the only possibility. In a closed-door meeting with Democrats in November, she was practically heckled by her peers for suggesting it, senators and aides said.
Feinstein made another presentation May 7, warning senators that if they did not agree to turn over the operation to a private contractor, prices would be increased 25 percent across the board...
In the final days of negotiations, Feinstein rolled her eyes and took a deep breath before explaining the ordeal that the Senate Restaurants had become for her.
"It's clearly not the sort of thing that I ran for the Senate to do," she said. "But somebody has to do it."
In the meantime, these same Senators who can't manage a cafeteria are planning to put nationalized health care on our menu. Let's wait until we get a taste of that!