Judicial Branch Using Impact Bargaining to Stem Potential Effects of Overtime Rule Change

On Dec. 1, new rules on which workers can earn overtime pay are set to go into effect. The rule change — created by executive order of President Obama — is good for workers in that more will now qualify for overtime pay.

With any change of this magnitude, there could be unforeseen consequences. With that in mind, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members in the Judicial Branch are taking a proactive approach to get a handle on any potential problems through a process known as “impact bargaining.”

“Chapter 39 is currently participating in impact bargaining with management to eliminate or minimize any adverse impact this is going to have on our people,” said Jen Hunt, the president of Chapter 39 and an SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Director.

Impact bargaining can be used when a change made by management would affect workers, but the union cannot bargain over the substance of the issue. Instead, the union can bargain over how the change would impact employees. This is, of course, not an option for non-union workers, who must simply accept however management chooses to put the changes into effect. Through impact bargaining, the members of Chapter 39 are actively working to help decide how the rules are implemented.

“I am hopeful that we can come to an agreement that will be beneficial to everyone,” Hunt said, including management.

The issue first came up for Judicial Branch employees in their Labor Management Committee, or LMC.

“It’s been on our agenda for the last two sessions, and at the last LMC, we agreed that it would be best to create an impact bargaining team,” Hunt said. “We felt it was important to include members that had been involved in past contracts — who would have insight into past bargaining decisions — and members that would be affected by the potential changes.”

Hunt explained that the change to federal labor law raises the minimum salary you must earn to be eligible to be classified as an administrative/exempt employee.

“These are the jobs that are ineligible for any overtime pay and members work as salaried employees,” she said. “This change affects all of our job classifications that are currently listed as administrative/exempt within our bargaining unit, since the beginning salary for our members does not meet the new standard.”

Impact bargaining is ongoing, with the next session set for next Wednesday, Nov. 9. Whatever the outcome, though, this is a great example of workers collectively exercising their rights, and working with management to find the best solution.

“Hopefully, we will have good news for our members soon,” Hunt said.

We’ll bring you any updates on this as bargaining continues.

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