Federal employee unions may soon have to account for wasted time on the taxpayer dime

This is a problem which we’ve run into with police unions in Arizona and other locations, but now the focus is swinging to the federal government. While many taxpayers may not be aware of it, the unions instituted a cozy little arrangement with the government back in the seventies. Under the existing deal, these public sector unions of federal workers can arrange for some of their workers to spend significant amounts of time during the normal work day engaged in “union business” while still drawing their full, taxpayer funded salaries. That may not be about to end, but we’ll at least have a better idea of exactly what it’s costing us if a new bill which just cleared committee makes it into law. (Government Executive Magazine)

Federal agencies may soon have to ramp up their reporting on how often employees conduct union duty while receiving a taxpayer-funded salary, with a House committee on Tuesday approving a measure to boost the oversight of the practice of official time.

The bill, introduced in January by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., and passed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, would require the Office of Personnel Management to report on official time annually. Agencies would have to supply OPM with the required data by the end of each calendar year, which OPM would then have to aggregate and publish by the following March…

The agency last released its Labor-Management Relations in the Executive Branch report in October 2014, which included official time data for fiscal 2012. That report found agency employees spent 3.43 million hours on official time that year, up 1.3 percent from fiscal 2011 and costing $157.2 million. An OPM spokeswoman recently told Government Executive the agency will issue its next report “sometime later this year.”

Pay close attention to that last paragraph. 3.4 million hours is one heck of a lot of time for “union business” every year. When you consider how much the average federal worker earns – a rate significantly higher than their civilian counterparts – that adds up to a serious chunk of change. Precisely how much “business” do they have to do on a daily basis? Also worth noting is the fact that this figure includes some employees who do nothing but union business full time and are still drawing a salary out of your tax dollars. What sort of an employer agrees to terms like that?

The Democrats, of course, are up in arms about it.

Several committee Democrats objected to the bill as an unnecessary attack on organized labor. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said some his colleagues “might have a fundamental misunderstanding of what official time is.” He added the practice serves “the joint interest” of both labor and management, and has been protected in statute since 1978.

Assuming that this measure makes it to a vote on the floor and arrives at the desk of Barack Obama, it should be instructive as to how he responds. If the objections from Lynch are pretty much the party line, how do you sell that at the White House press briefing the day after the veto? The bill doesn’t even go so far as to demand that the number of taxpayer funded union hours be reduced, say nothing of eliminated. They’re simply demanding a full accounting of how the taxpayer’s money is spent. If you’ve got the solid brass tacks to shoot down a financial accountability measure just as a favor to your union donors, that deserves to be a campaign issue.


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