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April 30, 2000

Union in Levitt's Shop Moves Closer

By William Hoffman

Increased mass transit fare subsidies. New flexible working hours. Proposals for special pay increases of 10 percent.

What a difference an SEC union drive can make.

Many of the "fence-sitters" have seen the changes inaugurated by the agency in response to an effort by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) to organize SEC employees, claimed union activist Michael R. Clampitt.

"They're saying, if this is what happens if we just threaten to form a union, think of what might happen if we actually did it," said Clampitt, an attorney advisor in the Securities and Exchange Commission's division of corporation finance

Victory Predicted

Clampitt and 1,800 other SEC employees are awaiting a critical decision from the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA).

The FLRA is considering an SEC request that the FLRA reconsider its support for an immediate union election. The SEC lodged its request after some 700 SEC employees signed up last year to force an election.

Clampitt says NTEU organizers have told him it is unusual for the authority to grant a reconsideration. "We're going to win the election hands down," he predicted.

NTEU representatives were not available for comment. SEC spokesman John Heine referred a reporter to statements the agency filed with the FLRA. The statements argued that a single bargaining unit could not appropriately represent employees at the SEC's 11 offices across the nation.

Clampitt said the SEC has not disputed its employees' right to union representation. The SEC argued that several units representing employees at outlying offices would be the most suitable arrangement.

Clampitt said other federal employee unions have indicated they would file amicus' briefs supporting SEC employees, if the FLRA agrees to reconsider its earlier decision (or if the SEC appeals to a federal court to stop the organizing drive.)

Morale among SEC staff has sunk, Clampitt contended, even as management instituted some of the reforms and benefits that motivated the union drive in the first place.

Extra Benefits

SEC managers recently instituted flex-time' arrangements allowing workers to come and go on their own schedules when feasible, he noted. Washington Metro mass transit subsidies have been raised from $23 a month to $65 a month, the maximum allowed. The agency also lobbied congressional appropriators for a 10 percent raise for attorneys and accountants. That pay hike was included in Sen. Phil Gramm's (R-Texas) bill, S. 2107, the Competitive Markets Supervision Act, which also proposes reducing Section 31 and other securities industry fees.

SEC managers might have expected these initiatives to blunt employees' enthusiasm for the union effort. But Clampitt said the opposite is true: "The benefits have been accruing to the union," he said.

Clampitt added, half-jokingly, "We've had a surprising number of ice cream socials. There's nothing better in the middle of winter than an ice cream social."