Senate Dems to seek higher wages for cafeteria workers, sources say

Meet the homeless man who works in the Capitol
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    Meet the homeless man who works in the Capitol

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Meet the homeless man who works in the Capitol 03:04

Washington (CNN)Some senators who learned about a Senate cafeteria worker who is forced to sleep out in the street because his wage is so low will try to get him and his coworkers a pay increase, Democratic sources told CNN late Friday.

The senators began making the plans after reading a CNN.com article about the plight of Charles Gladden, a 63-year-old grandfather making $360 a week who sleeps on a makeshift bed on a sidewalk next to D.C.'s McPherson Square Metro Station.
After the Senate voted to privatize its restaurants and cafeteria in 2008, it bid out the contracts to the lowest bidder, possibly decreasing salaries for people like Gladden, the sources said. It's unclear whether the Democratic senators, whom the sources did not identify, will be successful in their attempt to convince Compass Group, the contractor that employs Gladden and others, to increase their wages.
The senators could take action as early as next week, the sources added.
    Gladden makes about $11 an hour, but told CNN he gives a lot of it to his children and grandchildren, who have their own financial troubles.
    "I take care of them," he said. "I don't want to be a burden on my kids."
    When asked about his colleagues who make the same salary, but can still afford housing, Gladden said he realizes that his predicament is exacerbated because he chooses to give money to his children. But it's also because he suffers from diabetes, and his deteriorating health has meant missing work without pay, he said. He has even had three toes amputated because of his disease, which went untreated for a long time.
    Almost no one at the Capitol had a clue Gladden was homeless, until he went public as part of a one-day strike by federal contractors Wednesday demanding $15 dollars an hour, what they called a livable wage. At the time, Compass, a British-based catering company, would not comment on the actions or demands of the employees.
    Gladden says that his situation could easily happen to other workers with his income.
    "They scramble around for issues to talk about," he said, motioning to the Senate chamber behind him.
    "All they have to do is stop and ask the common person on the street ... or in the building; the people bringing them their food, people sweeping and cleaning their toilet," he said.
    As he returned to work after protesting for higher wages, he said he has a message for the senators he serves every day.
    "I'm an embarrassment. I don't want to be an embarrassment to this country, the country I was born and raised in," he said.