Pension workers vote for union representation

Amid economic pressures and increasing workloads, employees at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation voted last week to unionize.

On Feb. 25, PBGC employees backed union representation from the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers by a vote of 242-7. The agency employs more than 800 people, but only non-managers are eligible to join the union.

Donna Pentek, a paralegal at PBGC, said the economic downturn has prompted more bankruptcy filings and employees expect a staffing increase to deal with it. "We felt that if we were in a good spot, we could help direct that and let management know what we're going to need for planning purposes," she said.

Pentek said employees also wanted to be more involved in setting performance objectives, expanding benefits and recommending nominees to become PBGC's next chief. "We would see that very favorably to have somebody we actually backed as an executive director," she said.

Paul Shearon, secretary-treasurer for IFPTE, said corporation employees approached the union about one year ago to express interest in organizing. IFPTE-represented administrative law judges and Government Accountability Office analysts then visited PBGC and spoke to employees about the benefits of unionization.

Union members will be working with PBGC managers during the next few months to set interim rules and elect officers, according to Shearon.

"We're thrilled that PBGC's staff has chosen IFPTE," said Greg Junemann, president of the union. "Professional employees are increasingly looking for a collective voice on the job and a union such as ours guarantees them greater influence in decision-making."

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