Federal Workers no longer Allowed to Use Government Funds to Buy Disposable Plates and Cutlery

Thursday, August 13, 2015
(photo illustration: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

A government watchdog has ordered federal agencies to stop paying for disposable cups, plates and utensils for employees’ use.


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a “general rule” saying agencies could not spend taxpayer dollars to purchase disposable plates, cups and cutlery after the Department of Commerce and a union representing its workers had spent five years fighting over the issue of the agency providing paper plates and plastic utensils.


The fight began within the National Weather Service (NWS). There, the NWS Employee Organization had insisted management buy disposable goods for employee meals. Commerce officials agreed in 2009 to the union’s request, but changed its mind four years later once budgets got tighter.


The union took the matter to arbitration, and won its case, but Commerce went to the GAO for help, and the latter’s ruling essentially nullified the arbiter’s decision. The GAO reconsidered its decision, but released a letter (pdf) confirming it earlier this month.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Sorry Feds: You Have to Bring Your Own Plates and Forks to Work (by Eric Katz, Government Executive)

Which Agency Has the Most Expensive Disposable Eating Utensils? (by Ralph Smith, FedSmith.com)

Department of Commerce—Disposable Cups, Plates, and Cutlery (Government Accountability Office) (pdf)


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