By Jackie Kucinich - 08/16/06 12:00 AM EDT
As their last day of employment with the Congressional Research Service (CRS) nears, 12 employees affected by a decision to cut 59 staff members by Sept. 2006 still do not have new positions.
Many employees whose jobs were cut chose to retire early or have moved elsewhere in the agency, but a dozen have remained, hoping that a position within the agency will open up in the next month in order to retain their seniority and pay rate.
“You are constantly in limbo,” said one affected employee, whose position will be eliminated on Sept. 30. “The whole situation is mind-boggling.”
In Sept. 2005, CRS management announced that 59 positions in the areas of production support, technical support and audio/visual would be eliminated.
CRS has maintained that the jobs had become unnecessary and obsolete as technology has changed.
The employee, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisal, said that when he first came to the CRS over 10 years ago he was in a constant state of training.
“Now they tell me that I’m un-trainable,” he said. “This is the result of when you don’t have any real policy in place … you can just recycle [people] and wipe the slate clean.”
Another affected employee said that CRS was largely responsible for the lack of training, which has made it difficult for employees to find positions at comparable salaries outside of the legislative branch.
“Many of us are looking for positions within the federal government instead of the private sector,” the second employee said. “Many of these positions are only available to executive-branch employees, making it difficult to compete.”
He explained that CRS has not been forthcoming about what positions are left for employees who wish to stay with the service.
“The problem with the [reduction-in-force] process is that a lot of it has been secretive,” he said. “It’s hard to figure out what’s going on. The only way you find out anything is if you are offered a position.”
He asserted that while CRS has supplied affected employees with counseling and other transitional services, the agency’s top brass are mostly trying to push the remaining employees out.
The Congressional Research Employee Association (CREA), the union representing affected staff, has been highly critical of CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan’s decision to fire the employees; two thirds of which are women or minorities.
Last month, at a House Administration Committee oversight hearing on the Library of Congress (LoC), which oversees CRS, Dennis Roth, president of CREA, criticized CRS and LoC management style.
“Leadership can be accomplished many ways, and we believe that CRS currently practices a style inappropriate, damaging, and destructive for a professional service organization,” he told Chairman Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) in his testimony.
He accused CRS upper management of subversively surveying staff who were under the impression that their position description would be updated, and then eliminating them.
“The primary reason given by the Director was that he had conducted ‘sound business practice’ analyses, which revealed that the affected positions were no longer necessary in CRS,” Roth said.
In July, a Federal Labor Relations Authority arbitrator ruled in favor of a grievance filed by CREA Sept. 22, 2005 against CRS for violating the unions collective-bargaining agreement by not initially issuing a “reduction in force” when it announced that the CRS positions would be eliminated last year.
A reduction-in-force motion would have given employees a set of rights that would not be available otherwise.
In the decision, the arbitrator mandated that CRS release the disputed surveys to CREA, but on Aug. 7 the LoC filed an appeal disputing the ruling. They contended that the arbitrator did not adhere to the law when she made her initial decision and refused to release the surveys.
Over the past year, several members of Congress have weighed in on the dispute, including members of the Congressional Black, Hispanic and the Asian Pacific American caucuses.
On May 9, House Administration Ranking Member Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to grant the employees the ability to have the “ same competitive status” for jobs within the judicial branches and “to extend to displaced Library employees the same career-transition assistance extended to employees of the executive branch.”
During the July hearing, Millender-McDonald requested a meeting between herself, Roth, Mulhollan, Librarian of Congress James Billington and the director of the Library’s Human Resources Directorate, according to a CREA release.
A spokeswoman for Millender-McDonald said that the meeting would most likely take place after the Congressional Black Caucuses’ Annual Legislative Conference in September.
A spokeswoman for CRS could not be reached for comment.
On March 2, Mulhollan defended the agency’s decision during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.
“There is not another agency that I know of that has given staff a year to find another job,” he said.