Will Congress finally at least scale back "official time" for government worker unions?

We recently discussed a report which indicated that some departments in the federal government have no idea how many hours their employees spend on “official time.” In case you missed it, that’s the designation given to hours during the workday when workers are ostensibly conducting union business while on the clock. What we do know is that at least in some cases it’s quite a bit. In fact, some employees spend literally all of their time, all year long doing nothing but union work while being paid salaries funded by the taxpayers. Entire offices are dedicated to union business even though they are on federal government property and all the costs associated with providing resources to those offices are similarly paid for with tax dollars.

The situation has at long last come to the attention of certain Republicans in Congress and with any luck they’re going to be demanding some answers. (Government Executive)

Lawmakers expressed at a hearing Thursday bipartisan acceptance for the utility of federal union members conducting representational activity on the taxpayers’ dime, but Republicans drew the line at those who do no government work whatsoever.

Subcommittee leaders on the House Oversight and Veterans’ Affairs panels promised reforms to the practice of official time, saying it is being used in excess to the detriment of government efficiency. Lawmakers called the joint hearing after a Government Accountability Office report found the Veterans Affairs Department maintains no agency-wide procedures for recording and tracking official time use. VA employees reported just more than 1 million hours on official time in fiscal 2015, though GAO called that data unreliable.

Mark Meadows is on the House Oversight Committee, and while he’s not taking as hard of a line on this is I would personally care to see, he’s at least bringing the issue to light and suggesting that reform is in order. While the unions will scream bloody murder, they could still be getting off relatively easy. Meadows is talking about the full-time, “official time” workers who do absolutely nothing all year long in terms of what are ostensibly their government jobs, spending all their days working on union business. This is clearly outrageous and since it’s our money which is paying for this the taxpaying public deserves a seat at the table and a voice in this decision.

Just as in the private sector, the union is not the government. It is an outside agency with its own agenda and business to attend to. Other unions seem to manage to establish their own offices away from the property of the employer and they somehow manage to not only survive, but thrive. A government worker who does no work for the government is an employee of the union. Why is it our responsibility to foot the bill for their salary? For that matter, why should we be paying for the office supplies and the power to keep the lights turned on in the spaces they use to conduct no business on our behalf?

Frankly, the workers who have union business to take care of should be able to do so outside of normal business hours or, if that’s not possible, they shouldn’t be billing the hours during the normal business day spent on such activities to us. Sadly, this perquisite for the unions has been embedded in the system for so long that we are unlikely to get rid of it entirely. Even Mark Meadows is beginning the negotiations from a position of admitting that some of this activity is acceptable. Still, a reduction in this entrenched system of government waste would be better than nothing.