Thousands of congressional and judicial branch employes would get the same protections against job discrimination that most American workers have had for two decades under legislation proposed yesterday by 14 Republican members of Congress.
"We have a Congress that requires other employers to obey equal opportunity laws while excluding itself, a Congress that affirms the goals of civil rights laws while ignoring them in its own practices," said Rep. Lynn Martin (R-Ill.), who is sponsoring the legislation, to be introduced today.
The bill would affect about 30,000 legislative branch employes and 17,000 judicial branch employes, she said.
Congressional employes have fewer job protections than almost any other group of workers in the country. Congress has exempted itself from national civil rights laws that apply to almost all employers and that outlaw various types of discrimination in hiring and promotions.
The proposed legislation would prohibit job discrimination against congressional and judicial branch employes because of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age or handicap. It would allow members of Congress to favor persons on the basis of political affiliation or residence in the member's district.
Congress also may consider this year the rights of certain Capitol Hill blue-collar employes to unionize and bargain collectively for a contract that gives them job protections they now lack. The right to unionize could be granted administratively and does not require legislation.
The union organizing movement got a major boost earlier this month when House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill (D-Mass.) supported the workers' rights to organize.
Martin cited figures that showed that 81 percent of committee staff members earning less than $20,000 a year are women, while 75 percent of those earning more than $40,000 are men.
The proposed legislation would create an employment review board composed of senior federal circuit judges who would hear cases and determine whether an employe had been the object of discrimination.
"The Congress has shown great skill over the past 20 years in passing laws barring discrimination," said Rep. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), a cosponsor. "Unfortunately, the Congress has shown even greater skill in avoiding these same laws."