Talk to the Hand

Chair Gensler’s Failure to Come to the Table to Bargain Substance over Compensation and CBA Is at Odds with Biden Administration Labor Policies


Last week, the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, which is co-chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, published its first report to the President, which we encourage all of you to review here. One critical recommendation is for federal agencies to recognize that, collectively, the federal government is the largest employer in the U.S., with more than 3.3 million employees.  For that reason, the Task Force concludes that federal agencies should act as a “model employer” by facilitating worker power through executive action and “modeling practices that can be followed by state and local governments, private sector employers and others.” The Task Force emphasizes that agency management should work closely with their employees’ labor unions, because “when federal employees organize a union, they should have an effective voice in workplace issues in a manner that advances agencies’ missions and produces high-performance workplaces.”

 Apparently, SEC Chair Gary Gensler did not get the memo.

 Chair Gensler’s current posture towards the union and the thousands of SEC employees it represents includes:

 · Refusing to come to the formal bargaining table to negotiate a compensation package that will include a pay raise that employees expect to receive in approximately two months—despite the expiration of our current compensation agreement in early January and the union’s repeated requests to bargain since last spring;

· Refusing to come to the formal bargaining table to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement covering SEC employees’ rights and work life programs, such as telework, despite the contract’s expiration in early January;

· Insisting upon jettisoning over twenty years of past practice regarding the parties’ ground rules for such negotiations, to gain an unfair advantage whenever we do get to the formal bargaining tables for these two agreements, and forcing the union to take this dispute to the Federal Service Impasses Panel for the first time in our history at the agency;

· Refusing to engage in an “interest based” approach to discussions that take into account SEC employees’ interests, as well as management’s, to try to reach a win-win for both parties—despite the Biden Administration’s admonition to federal agencies to engage in such interest based bargaining— and opting instead to utilize a traditional “rights & position based” approach that treats any disagreement as a “zero sum game” with a winner and loser; and

· Significantly cutting back on past administrations’ union access to senior management decision making by reducing communications with union leadership and eliminating the existence of a designated liaison from senior management directly to union leadership.

NTEU Chapter 293 President Greg Gilman recently remarked that, “The steps taken by Chair Gensler regarding personnel matters since his arrival at the SEC have been extremely disappointing. I know that the SEC employees that we represent have high expectations for the new Chair, given the pro-federal employee stance of the President. These employees have given their all to maintain the agency’s high standards over the past two years during difficult pandemic conditions, and they have thrown their shoulders into working hard on Chair Gensler’s regulatory agenda. If these current trends continue, however, I worry about the agency’s continuing ability to retain and attract the necessary professionals to meet the SEC’s important mission, particularly given a very strong labor market in the private sector.”

The union will continue to keep you posted regarding important developments on the bargaining front. Thanks to all of you who support us as union members. Without you, there would be no union to represent our interests.