Congress should adopt new personnel procedures for its 20,000 employees to prove it "is not above the laws it imposed on every other American," a newly formed Coalition for Equal Employment in Congress said yesterday.
The coalition said it will press Congress to eliminate sex and race discrimination it said has been documented on Capitol Hill.
"We hope to end the ultimate hypocrisy where employees working for the nation's lawmakers lack the simple protections granted by those lawmakers to others," coalition leaders told a news conference.
Congressional employees have no legal protections under the law if they believe they are victims of race or sex discrimination - because Congress exempted itself from the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the subsequent Equal Pay Act.
The coalition has asked the Commission on Administrative Review, headed by Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), to recommend vigorous efforts to deal with discrimination. The steps proposed so far by the Obey commission are inadequate, may be unworkable and do not deal with discrimination against the handicapped or the elderly, it said.
The coalition proposed creation of an independent employment review board, which would exclude members of Congress or their staffs, to review complaints and recommend solutions. Appeals could be made to the congressional ethics committees.
The coalition is chaired by Ronal H. Brown, Washington director of the National Urban League, and Olga Grkavac, head of the Capitol Hill Women's Political Caucus.
So far, the coalition has the backing of 13 other civil rights and public interest groups including Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Council of Senior Citizens.
The coalition praised the Obey commission for its recommendations on affirmative action in hiring and promoting more women and minorities and in offering them more on-the-job training.
But Brown noted that the commission had found, in a survey of House offices, that "white males continue to earn from 18 per cent more than women performing the same tasks" and that blacks make up only 6.8 per cent of the House work force and are usually at the bottom of the pay scales.