Many people have probably never seen an elevator operator these days. Jobs like elevator operator and bathroom attendant seem to be extinct. However, if you should happen to become a United States Senator, get used to having someone push the elevator buttons for you.
Over the last five years, Uncle Sam has paid out over $1.2 million to pay operators who man the Capitol’s senators-only elevators. The longer the elevator operator pushes the right buttons, the more money they will rake in. The longest tenured elevator operator has seen a salary increase each of the last five years. That operator has earned over $210,000 over those five years, giving them an average salary of around $42,000 a year.
So why can’t Senators just select their floor on their own? The Senate sergeant at arms office, which employs the operators, defended the presence of the elevator operators by saying that they provide services to the Senators besides the obvious. They listed nine roles and responsibilities of the operators that are separate from the physical operation of the automated elevators. Many of these other responsibilities deal with providing a clear and safe path for Senators to move through quickly, pointing confused tourists in the right direction, and working in the galleries during Senate recesses. The sergeant at arms office also noted that all elevator operators are certified in first aid and CPR.
In 2011, the sergeant at arms office decided that elevator operators would be among the furloughed nonessential staff. However, even after the Senate identified the taxpayer-funded operators as nonessential, no evidence exists to suggest that they plan on eliminating or reducing the funding for those positions. So if you hate pressing the buttons on elevators on your own, all you have to do is become a Senator!