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Architect, Union Agree to Long-Awaited Deal

A collective bargaining agreement covering about 500 laborers, custodians, gardeners and other non-skilled workers employed by the Architect of the Capitol’s office went into effect Tuesday.

The agreement, signed by acting Architect Stephen Ayers, will allow the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to represent workers who serve in the Capitol, House and Senate office buildings and Botanic Garden.

“We are pleased that the contract is being signed today after being ratified earlier by a vote of the AFSCME membership,” said Wally Reed, president of AFSCME Local 626. “This agreement, which contains new rights and protections for union-represented employees, will bring labor-relations to a new level in the Office of the Architect of the Capitol.”

It took eight years of negotiations to get the agreement hashed out, according to the AOC.

The new guidelines cover a number of personnel policies, including a new performance evaluation and communication system, providing for merit employment, career staffing and upward mobility programs, putting into effect an annual and sick leave policy, providing guidelines for probationary employees, and setting health and safety standards.

The agreement also includes guidelines for a grievance process, which provides for final and binding arbitration.

According to the AOC, the bargaining agreement will serve to create uniform personnel policies throughout the agency’s various jurisdictions. In a press release, the agency said the agreement will “benefit all covered employees through consistent and effective management, leadership, and governance.”

“This agreement strikes a perfect balance of management’s and employees’ respective rights,” Ayers said. “I’m very pleased … and look forward to our continued partnership with AFSCME on matters that are important to our employees and the AOC.”

Since 1997, AFSCME Council 26 has represented employees who work for the Architect’s office and are covered under the Congressional Accountability Act, such as the laborers and custodians who help maintain the Capitol complex.

In October 2006, 84 AOC employees who maintain the buildings and grounds of the Library of Congress voted to join AFSCME Local 626. At the time, Reed called it “a landmark election.”

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