Wilhelmina Rolark, a member of the D.C. City Council, hardly had time to take her coat off at a breakfast meeting recently before a waiter cornered her and started lobbying against proposals to change the city's unemployment compensation program in a way that would make it harder for many jobless persons to get benefits.
Rolark heads the council's employment and economic development committee, which is considering a bill proposed by Mayor Walter E. Washington that is intended to restore solvency to the compensation program. The bill would revise the payroll tax imposed on employers, in most cases upward.
Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade has asked the committee to amend the mayor's bill, barring unemployment pay to workers who quit voluntarily or are fired for gross misconduct.
The trade board has estimated such tightened rules would reduce benefit payments by $11 million a year, easing the burden on employers who face added taxation to pay back $64.4 million the D.C. Unemployment Compensation Board has borrowed from the U.S. Treasury to keep the program afloat.
About 500 members of Local 25 of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union attended a regular union meeting recently and unanimously instructed their officers to lobby against the proposals.
A union official said most of the members learned of the trade board's proposal from a news account published earlier in The Washington Post.
The union's lobbying drew a clear battle line between labor and management positions that seems likely to flare into open controversy when Rolark's committee meets Wednesday to act on the bill.
"I gather it's going to be a packed and intense meeting," Rolark told a reporter. "I don't think we're going to do anything that's punitive to the employes."
The stand by the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union came to light at a meeting recently between City Council members and leaders of the Greater Washington Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO of which the Restaurant Workers Union is a part.
Robert E Petersen, the labor council's president, outlined an eight-point legislative agenda for 1978. It included passage of the mayor's unemployment compensation bill without the Board of Trade's amendment that would bar benefits for those quitting voluntarily.
"The (voluntary quitting) provision is unfair, for example, where the employer makes the work environment adverse to the employe" Petersen said. "This could be for health or safety reasons."
"Similarly, employes have found it necessary to quit voluntarily when given an ultimatum by the employer to quit or they will fired." To keep a clean job record, he said, an employe usually will quit.
City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, who has just announced plans to run for mayor this year said he expected the council would draft definitions of misconduct and voluntary job quitting that would meet union objections. Several union leaders at the meeting disagreed.
At the meeting with city council members, the central labor council listed these other items on its legislative agenda:
It asked for a delay until 1979 in the city's adoption of a municipal civil service system separate from the federal system, giving more time for deliberations. (A city council committee has scheduled action on a municipal bill for March 1.)
It asked for adoption of D.C. rules on occupational safety and health in the form recommended by Mayor Washington, rejecting amendments submitted by employer groups that it views as weakening the measure.
It supported congressional approval of the downtown convention center.
It endorsed a bill making it illegal for D.C. employers to hire illegal aliens.
It asked for safeguards on the monitoring of telephone calls by some employers, which is done to determine how well employes deal with the public. Those whose calls are being overheard should be told of that fact, the labor group said.
It asked for the creation of a special office to help motion picture producers in handling the details of making films on public property in Washington. This, the labor group said, is intended to attract more film activity to the city.
It endorsed legislation mandating that 1 per cent of all municipal construction money shall be spent for such art projects as murals, sculpture and mobiles.