Campus Notebook: The Hungry and Outraged

Posted October 27, 2008 at 6:37pm

The Hungry and Outraged. At least one staffer is still fighting against Friday’s price increases in the House cafeterias, recently sending a petition signed by 227 people to Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard.

[IMGCAP(1)]Brian Diffell, a policy adviser to Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), created the petition after learning Restaurant Associates was raising its food prices by an average of 10 percent (with some items costing as much as 40 percent more).

CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura said the office hadn’t seen the petition Monday afternoon and had no comment.

Beard announced the price increase earlier this month, citing high food and gasoline prices. But the petition questions that explanation.

“The official reasoning provided by the vendor, the increase in global gasoline and food prices, strikes us as insincere,” the petition reads. “Are we to believe that prices will be adjusted downward should such pricing ease?”

It goes on to ask Beard to “work with Restaurant Associates to reverse its decision and work to ensure that Capitol Hill staff and visitors to the complex have an opportunity to continue to dine at affordable prices.”

It’s unclear how many Democrats and Republicans signed the petition — or how many of the signatories are staffers — because Diffell did not require that they give such information.

Ready to Launch, Finally. The Capitol Visitor Center is ready to open its cafeterias and gift shops after President Bush signed a bill that sets up the CVC’s operational structure.

The bill was long in coming: After the House passed it in March, the chambers took six months to negotiate changes.

CVC officials planned for a Dec. 2 opening without knowing who was officially in charge of things such as making hires and setting a budget.

Much of the discussions between the House and Senate focused on whether the center’s chief executive officer or the Architect of the Capitol was ultimately responsible for hiring, spending and contracts, among other things.

In the bill, the AOC makes the final decision with a recommendation from the CEO.

One Step at a Time. The Government Accountability Office’s first-ever union has overwhelmingly ratified an “interim agreement” with the agency’s management.

Since GAO employees voted to form the union more than a year ago, their efforts have been focused on organizing the group and obtaining back pay for hundreds of workers denied cost-of-living increases in 2006 and 2007.

Congress recently passed a law ensuring their back pay. Now, with the interim agreement ratified, union members are on their way to accomplishing their organizing goals.

The agreement covers only the basics, such as when employees have the right to be represented by union officials and how grievances are handled. About a third of the union’s bargaining unit voted, and 89 percent voted to ratify the agreement.

After it’s official, the union can begin to form a permanent structure, electing officials and establishing a paying membership. Already, the union has ratified a constitution in the same vote as the interim agreement.

GAO acting Comptroller Gene Dodaro has 30 days to sign it, which he is expected to do. In a press release last month, Dodaro said he was pleased with the agreement.

“We have worked hard to build and maintain union and management relations here at GAO,” he said, “and I am very pleased we were able to reach a good agreement and reach it quickly.”

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