(Washington)—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) thanks Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and members of the Senate Appropriations Committee for their efforts to save the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from a disastrous budget cut and refocus priorities on frontline service for victims of workplace discrimination.
“Sen. Mikulski has fought tirelessly for adequate staffing and resources for the EEOC,” said Gabrielle Martin, president of the AFGE National Council of EEOC Locals No. 216. “We are a small agency, but we do terribly important work, which Sen. Mikulski understands. Sen. Mikulski has succeeded in averting a crisis that would have endangered the rights of workers around the country.”
Senate appropriators recently restored the EEOC’s funding to last year’s enacted level of $327 million, rather than adopting the administration’s request to cut funding by $4 million. In a strongly-worded report, Senate appropriators expressed concern over the rising backlog of discrimination charges at the agency and highlighted that the “committee’s recommended funding levels will result in an increase in resources to the field, where the vast majority of the work gets done.”
In its report, the committee also took the unusual step of designating line item funding levels for EEOC’s headquarters and other areas to ensure heightened priority in the field. Specifically, the report’s language directs the agency to use unallocated funds to hire permanent field investigators and attorneys.
“This language hits all the right marks and puts people first,” said Martin. “We are grateful that Sen. Mikulski and her colleagues have taken such a strong stand to promote civil rights.”
The Senate committee report includes a rebuke of EEOC’s “lack of respect for congressional priorities,” referencing the EEOC’s decision to implement a controversial reorganization plan in January without congressional approval. The report also directs the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to evaluate the impact of the reorganization plan. Additionally, the committee also reversed the agency’s decision to downgrade the Baltimore EEOC office, thereby “restoring” it to the level of a district office.
Committee members also included language in their report eliminating the EEOC’s unpopular National Call Center, citing a recent evaluation by the OIG which found that the NCC operated ineffectively and produced minimal cost savings. However, the committee report was released after a contentious meeting of EEOC commissioners that resulted in a 3-2 vote to renew the NCC for one additional year. EEOC Vice Chair Naomi Earp, a Republican appointee, voted against the extension, stating that the EEOC’s version of a call center was “not quite ready for prime time.” Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru, a Democratic appointee, joined Earp in voting against continuing the NCC pilot program.
“In light of the Senate committee’s direction and the acknowledgement by all commissioners that the NCC pilot has underperformed, I am hopeful that the NCC contract will be allowed to expire,” said Martin. For more information, please visit www.protectyourjob.org