This week, the U.S. House of Representative passed H.R. 8294, an appropriations package that included six FY 2023 spending bills. The bill, which passed by a vote of 220-207 consisted of the following bills: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies; and Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. H.R. 8294 provides funding for a number of NTEU-represented agencies, including the SEC, among others, and includes government-wide employee issues. In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee will not formally consider any of their FY 2023 funding bills but will simply release the text of the bills by the end of the month. We intend to provide an update once the text of the bills is released.
The House bill would provide $2.2 billion for the SEC, an increase of $207 million, matching the President’s request. The union believes this increase is required to further the agency’s important mission in terms of hiring and IT investments. Furthermore, the increase would be more than sufficient to pay for the union’s asks in our CBA negotiations which, combined, would only cost the agency a little more than 1% of its entire budget annually. These union CBA proposals would be very important to SEC frontline staff and thus would greatly assist the agency in attracting and retaining the talented professionals the agency requires in what is currently a highly competitive jobs market for financial/legal sector employment. This last point is especially true since our headcount at the SEC has not increased substantially over the past year given the historically high rate of employee attrition at the agency (particularly for attorneys) since Chair Gensler came on board a little more than a year ago. As of the end of Q2 2022, the SEC employed 3,319 bargaining unit employees, compared to 3,281 at the end of Q2 2021, when Chair Gensler arrived. Thus, despite the agency’s hiring binge over the past year, our headcount has not changed substantially. It cannot be gainsaid that our newer hires also typically cost the agency substantially less money in terms of pay and benefits, thus reducing the agency’s overall costs.
Unfortunately, however, during our CBA formal talks over this summer, Chair Gensler’s team, at his direction, has thus far refused even to discuss with the union any issue that will cost the agency even a modest amount of money. Furthermore, even with respect to workplace flexibilities such as telework, alternative work schedules and annual leave, Mr. Gensler’s positions have been very disappointing, particularly given that he is advancing those positions in what is supposed to be a federal employee friendly administration. We fully expect that the SEC workforce will be extremely displeased with his proposals. The union fears that his overall stance regarding the SEC’s workforce will only lead to a further acceleration of the currently rising trend of professional employee attrition at the agency since his arrival, further eroding the SEC’s ability to meet its mission in an already challenging environment.
The formal bargaining period for our CBA will be concluded after several final sessions next week. Thereafter the union anticipates providing updates to all of you regarding the anti-employee positions Mr. Gensler is advancing in these important negotiations with your representatives--positions that could have a profound impact upon your work lives and career choices going forward.
Several amendments were offered to the House bill to cut funding for specific agencies or across the board. Representatives Rick Allen (R-GA), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Kevin Hern (R-OK), Ralph Norman (R-SC), and Scott Perry (R-PA), offered amendments that would reduce funding for those agencies covered by the FSGG section of the bill, which includes the IRS, BFS, and SEC, by either 5 or 22 percent. Those amendments failed, en bloc, by a vote of 199 to 229.
With regard to government-wide workforce issues, the funding package remains silent on the issue of federal employee pay, thereby deferring to the President’s proposal. As you are aware, the President has proposed a 4.6 percent pay increase for federal employees for 2023 (which SEC employees will receive, in addition to a 2.6% merit pay increase, pursuant to the union-won compensation agreement earlier this year), but his budget request was silent as to whether any amount is allocated for locality pay. According to the Federal Employee Pay Comparability Act of 1990, federal employees should receive a 4.1 percent pay increase in 2023 before locality pay is added. NTEU will continue to work with Congress and the administration in support for the FAIR Act (H.R. 6398/S. 3518), which provides an average 5.1 percent increase consisting of a 4.1 percent across-the-board increase and an average 1.0 percent for locality pay.
The bill also continues the ban on funding new outsourcing activities under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76, which is important given recent renewed calls by some in Congress to outsource additional federal jobs.
During consideration of the funding package, an amendment was offered by Representatives Chip Roy (R-TX) and Scott Perry (R-PA) that would have cut all funding for the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). As you know, the FLRA administers the Labor-Management relations program for approximately 2.1 million non-postal federal employees and, among other things, supervises union elections, adjudicates unfair labor practice complaints, and resolves questions concerning the negotiability of bargaining proposals. The amendment, which was voted on en bloc with several other amendments, failed with a vote of 197 to 230.
The union was pleased to see House approval of this legislation providing critical increases in funding for many NTEU-represented agencies. Please be assured as Congress continues consideration of FY 2023 funding legislation, NTEU will continue to fight for a fair pay raise and adequate funding for all federal agencies, including the SEC. We will update you on further developments.