Daily Labor Report
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 Page A-2
Boost EEOC Budget, Defund Call Center,
Union Leader Asks House Subcommittee
Expressing "grave concern" over the four years of flat budgets at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the head of the agency's labor union April 24 asked a congressional appropriations subcommittee to consider a higher funding level than the amount proposed by the Bush administration for fiscal 2008.
"Civil rights enforcement in this country is being compromised," said Gabrielle Martin, president of the National Council of EEOC Locals, an American Federation of Government Employees affiliate, during brief testimony before the House Appropriation Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.
Martin, an attorney in the agency's Denver district office, also reiterated the union's opposition to a contractor-operated call center, currently under the third year of a pilot project that will expire this summer.
In addition to increasing the administration's requested funding level of $327.7 million for the next fiscal year, Martin urged the House appropriators to add language to the measure that would defund the call center, direct the hiring of additional frontline staff, and require oversight of the continuing restructuring of the agency's headquarters and field operations, according to her prepared testimony.
Martin was one of a series of outside witnesses who testified regarding programs under the subcommittee's jurisdiction. She was the only witness to address EEOC's budget, according to a subcommittee aide.
During an appearance before the same panel last month, EEOC Chair Naomi Earp acknowledged that the agency has been continuously plagued by funding shortages(54 DLR A-11, 3/21/07).
At that hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) questioned whether the proposed funding level for EEOC was adequate in light of the increase in both the inventory of pending discrimination charges and the time frame for processing those charges. Mollohan also expressed concern over the continuation of the call center, which was launched to improve customer service by handling routine calls to the agency, but has been the object of criticism by EEOC's inspector general and by other legislators as well.
Following her Capitol Hill appearance, Martin said she was encouraged by Mollohan's interest in the agency over the years and felt that he was "very concerned" about the difficulties it has been facing. "I'm hopeful the committee will make strong recommendations based on the realities of the situation," she told BNA