Lawyers who work at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission may do the same job and have the same amount of experience, but that doesn’t mean they make the same amount of money.
The union that represents SEC workers hopes to change that. The National Treasury Employees Union reported that SEC Chair Mary Jo White last week "endorsed the basic concept" proposed by the union to rectify pay differences between some agency workers.
In the past, the SEC set starting salaries based on what a person made at his or her old job, an arrangement that favored law firm lawyers in particular.
"Thus, for example, an employee who went to Harvard Law and was clerking for the Supreme Court could start at a far lower salary then a similarly situated peer simply because the latter chose to work in a lucrative law firm job before coming to the SEC," according to the union. "Such policies trap employees unfairly at lower salary levels, even though the market would value them at a much higher level."
The union wants the SEC to form a pay equity committee divided equally between union members and management. The committee would consider applications from SEC employees who make lower salaries than their colleagues with similar experience and abilities, and when warranted, raise their pay.
"Just in the past few weeks, SEC senior management seems to have warmed up to the union’s concept on this issue," NTEU Vice President Pat Copeland said in written statement. "It would be a great way for the agency to show that it cares about fairness and employee morale if we could get together to rectify these pay differences."
Still, the NTEU and SEC management remain at loggerheads on other issues, unable to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. In the next two weeks, an independent fact-finder will submit his decision to the Federal Service Impasses Panel, an independent federal adjudicator that will impose an agreement upon the parties because they’re unable to do so collaboratively.
According to the union, "nearly all of the [collective bargaining agreement] articles that are of most importance to large numbers of SEC employees remain unresolved at this time." These include telework, alternative work schedules, reimbursement of professional licensing fees, upward mobility and procedures for use in the event of a government shutdown or furlough.
"The term of our contract is only three years, and every time we negotiate a new term it takes almost as long as the term itself to negotiate a new agreement with the SEC," negotiating team member Lawrence Pisto said in a union news release. "We have been at the table for over two years now. We have only been asking to preserve the work/life balance that we currently enjoy."
The union last week also invoked formal arbitration concerning retroactive transit benefits.
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.