While unions representing government employees are still private entities, it is shocking just how much tax dollars they receive for performing union business that does not benefit the public. In the last year data was reported, federal employee unions received over $157 million in taxpayer dollars to conduct union work.
This phenomenon is known as “official time” and it allows federal employees to forgo their duties to the taxpayers and instead act as a union representative, often for years at a time.
Americans for Limited Government Foundation has filed numerous FOIA requests, uncovering the reported costs of “official time” for employees who spend 100% of their time working for their union rather than for the taxpayer. And this is on top of all the employees who spend a portion of their hours working for the union which is not included in the numbers below.
And it is astonishing how many federal employees spend all their time on union business and never work for the taxpayer:
- The Department of Transportation spent over $3.6 million on 26 employees
- The U.S. Postal Service spent $16.5 million on 274 employees
- The Department of Agriculture spent over $2.2 million on 29 employees
- The Environmental Protection Agency spent over $8 million on 73 employees
- The U.S. General Services Administration spent over $1.6 million on 17 employees
- The Department of Labor spent over $1.6 million on 17 employees
- The Department of Homeland Security spent over $2.7 million on 39 employees
These full-time, salaried employees of the federal government do not work on behalf of the American public, but rather exclusively as representatives of their union, while maintaining their government position, title, salary, and pension.
This money could be used to hire additional staff, upgrade equipment or more appropriately, cut spending.
While these numbers seem outrageous, previous FOIA requests from 2013 revealed the IRS had more than 200 employees on full-time official status and the VA had over 250.
Unfortunately, government waste is not the only fallout from “official time.” There are some indications that the practice can lead to criminal misconduct. Some federal government employees on 100 percent official time have engaged in criminal acts on the taxpayers’ dime. For example, a 2015 conviction was handed down to an American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) former President on counts of embezzling. This behavior is not unknown to AFGE with the Department of Labor reporting the former President Jeffery Davies of the Anchorage, Alaska Local 183 shop of the AFGE plead guilty to embezzling over $90,000 earlier this June and multiple accounts of criminal misconduct in 2014.
But there is one sure fire way to cut back the government subsidy to unions, the Federal Employee Accountability Act. It is sponsored by Jody Hice (R-GA) in the House. Unfortunately little progress has been made so far, except for its referral to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
This piece of legislation would curb the excessive use of “official time” and would bring some order and responsibility back to the federal government.
For more information on union “official time” at the state level, see the latest edition of Capital Research Center’s Labor Watch here.