The middle class is crumbling right in front of the 2016 candidates

For the past decade, I’ve served elected officials as a contract worker at the U.S. Senate cafeteria.  That means I work in the place where many of the 2016 candidates, as well as the sitting president, have purchased their meals, soft drinks, and snacks.   

The folks I serve are really nice.  I’m a cashier and in my check-out line, people always ask “How are you doing today, Ms. Pam?”  I smile and say everything is fine (because that’s company policy).   


But the truth is that my life is not fine.    

I used to do the same job as an employee of the U.S. government, just like the people I serve.  I had a good job and I could enjoy the American Dream.  I earned enough to purchase my own home, take vacations, and even save for retirement.  I had a solid foothold in the middle class.    

But in 2008, the government outsourced our jobs to a huge global corporation headquartered in another country.   I went from being a public servant to becoming a corporate servant.    

The company immediately slashed our wages and benefits.   As a result, I’m struggling to survive day by day.

To save my house, I had to have my brother take over my mortgage payments.   He now lives with me and we rent our basement to a stranger to make ends meet.   Even though I’m 60 and suffer from severe arthritis, I’m not sure that I can ever afford to retire, let alone take a vacation.

In addition to low pay, the corporation won’t guarantee me regular hours.  When the Senate goes on recess, so do my wages.  I lose out on over 100 days of pay a year because the contractor lays us off to boost the bottom line.   Who can afford to go 3 months a year without pay?   

In other words, I’ve fallen out of the middle class.  This happened right in front of the current president and many who are running to succeed him.  They all talk about “rebuilding the middle class,” but it seems like empty rhetoric.   As senators, they could have helped me and my co-workers. 

That’s why I’m on strike today with federal contract workers from around our nation’s capital.  We want the president and all the 2016 candidates to wake-up to the fact that the middle class is crumbling on their watch.   We want them to understand that the people who serve them are struggling to survive.  If they won’t help us, who will they help?    

We are calling on the president and the 2016 candidates to make sure federal contracts don’t go to corporations that are destroying the American middle class.  Like the fast food and Wal-Mart workers, we want them to make sure federal contract workers make at least $15 an hour, get decent benefits, and enjoy the right to form a union without retaliation so we don’t have to go on strike to get them to pay attention to us.   

This should be the litmus test for whether or not the current and future president really believes what they say in their speeches.

Cadlett is a cashier in the Senate cafeteria.