A bill to eliminate union "official time"

One of the significant accomplishments of the Trump administration was a series of reforms that clamped down on abusive union practices inside the federal government. Some of those changes were obviously needed, such as removing the barriers to firing workers over incompetence or even criminal activity. But another wasteful topic that Trump addressed was the issue of “official time.” Under the old rules, government employees who were also union officials were allowed to spend some of their time on the clock – in some cases, all of their time – conducting “union business.” They were also allowed to use office space and all of the resources such spaces consume as union offices. All of this was done on the taxpayer’s dime, while not getting any actual government work out of the arrangement.

As soon as Joe Biden was sworn in, he began working to undo all of that progress. Since the unions fund pretty much all Democratic campaigns, this was the payback union leaders were expecting from Biden and he made it clear “on day one” that he planned to deliver. But now there has been a new bill introduced in the House that would block the restoration of the wasteful practice of billing the taxpayers for “official time” spent by union officials when they are supposed to be doing government work. Named the “Do Your Job Act,” the bill would ban the use of official time inside the halls of the federal government. (Government Executive)

Although President Biden acted swiftly in the first days of his administration to rescind former President Trump’s anti-union workforce policies, including severe restrictions on union officials’ use of official time, a group of conservative Republicans in the House has introduced legislation that would override his actions.

Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., and 12 other GOP lawmakers on Tuesday introduced the Do Your Job Act, a bill that would go further than the Trump administration by outlawing the practice of official time altogether.

“The abusive practice of allowing union work to occur on official time wastes millions of taxpayer dollars every year, as federal employees use paid time off to perform official union duties,” Bishop said in a statement. “By amending the Civil Service Reform Act, we can ensure that Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars go toward the public services they are intended for, not union interests.”

First, I would just like to say that I love the name. The “Do Your Job Act” is designed to reflect that phrase and what it should mean to taxpayers. If you have a job in the federal government and are drawing a paycheck, you work for the taxpayers, and the description of the job you applied for and the GS-rating you received have nothing to do with handling union business. The office space inside the government is similarly intended for doing the work of the people and it costs money to turn on the lights and operate all of the office equipment involved. Those resources need to be expended on government work, not union work.

The reporter for Government Executive who filed the linked report, Erich Wagner, obviously drinks deeply from the union Kool-Aid and seeks to dispute the assertions made by Congressman Dan Bishop when filing this bill. Wagner writes that official time is “a practice under which union officials at federal agencies may be compensated for representational work…” He then goes on to falsely claim that such activities are not “internal union business.” He lists examples such as contract negotiations and representing employees in grievance proceedings or internal investigations.

But as should already be obvious, each and every one of those things is union business since they are being conducted as an act of representing the union against management. The large unions representing federal workers have plenty of paid people on their staff. Let them come in and take care of the contract negotiations or investigations. They can pay their own attorneys to represent members in grievance proceedings. If a federal employee wants to also run for a position as a union official that’s fine, but take care of your union chores on your own time, not the taxpayers’.

Sadly, with Democrats in charge of both chambers of Congress and union-loving Joe Biden in the oval office, the Do Your Job Act will likely never even be allowed on the floor for a vote, to say nothing of being signed into law. But the GOP should be paying attention to this bill and keeping it in their back pocket for the next time the Democrats are out of power. This is a badly needed bit of reform that is long overdue.