Mikulski introduces fair-employment legislation for Capitol's 2,300 workers

June 16, 1994|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Sun Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski introduced legislation yesterday to require the agency that maintains the 285-acre Capitol complex to establish a fair-employment system for its 2,300 employees, many of whom have complained about a hostile and racially discriminatory work environment.

The Baltimore Democrat's bill came in response to a General Accounting Office study released in April that found that the agency lacked the most basic employee-management system.

One result of that shortcoming, according to the GAO report, is that many workers -- especially blacks -- languish in low-level jobs.

"We introduce this bill today because the employees at the office of the Architect of the Capitol have suffered long enough, and it is time for it to end," said Ms. Mikulski, who represents many of the agency's work force who live in Maryland.

Support for the legislation came from several other members of Congress, including Reps. Kweisi Mfume and Albert R. Wynn, both Maryland Democrats.

The Architect of the Capitol operates and maintains the 200-year-old Capitol, the Senate and House office buildings, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the Botanical Garden and the Capitol Police headquarters, as well as the grounds.

The legislation introduced yesterday would require the agency to establish a personnel management system that ensures fair hiring and promotion practices.

The bill calls for the establishment of an equal employment opportunity program that includes the goal of diversifying the agency's workforce in high-level positions.

The legislation also would require the agency to initiate a job performance evaluation system and job training programs that would provide avenues for advancement to low-level employees.

At a Senate subcommittee hearing last month, Ms. Mikulski upbraided the head of the agency, George M. White, for failing to improve employment practices in the Architect of the Capitol's office despite the many complaints over the years.

The hearing followed the release of the GAO report, which found that:

* Minorities and women are underrepresented in the agency's better-paying jobs.

* The agency has no formal performance evaluation process.

* There is no agency-wide merit-based hiring and promotion plan.

If it becomes law, the legislation would require the Architect's office to initiate the reforms within six months.

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