WASHINGTON, JULY 10, 2007 – Today, Acting Architect of the Capitol, Stephen T. Ayers, AIA, signed into force and effect a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Office of the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 626, representing approximately 500 laborers, custodians, gardeners, and other non-skilled workers in the House and Senate Office Buildings, U.S. Capitol Building, and the U.S. Botanic Garden. Agreement was reached after almost eight years of negotiations and covers many personnel policies, practices, and working conditions; chief among them being a new performance evaluation and communication system; merit employment and career staffing; annual and sick leave policies; probationary employees; health and safety; and upward mobility. It is expected that this agreement will create uniform personnel policies and practices among the various jurisdictions within the AOC and benefit all covered employees through consistent and effective management, leadership, and governance. The Agreement also provides for a grievance procedure that provides for final and binding arbitration, as required by law. Mr. Ayers, upon signing the agreement documents noted, "This agreement strikes a perfect balance of management’s and employees’ respective rights. I’m very pleased that we have reached this collective bargaining agreement and look forward to our continued partnership with AFSCME on matters that are important to our employees and the AOC." Wally Reed, Local President, AFSCME Local 626 and a gardener at the U.S. Botanic Garden, said, "These negotiations have been a huge effort. We are pleased that the contract is being signed today after having been ratified earlier by a vote of the AFSCME membership. 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."