Time to End Official Time


The Official Time Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 1364) would prohibit federal employees from conducting political activity on union official time. Union official time is taxpayer-funded subsidy to federal employee unions that pays for federal employees’ salary and benefits while they perform union business—including attending union conventions, lobbying Congress, and filing grievances, instead of the federal work they were hired to do.

The bill calls for federal employees to lose service credit, which counts toward pension and bonuses, if they perform union business for 80 percent or more of the hours in a workday.

According to the latest available data from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in FY 2014 official time costs taxpayers $162.5 million and federal employees spent 3.4 million hours conducting union business instead of their jobs

But costs are likely much higher than that. A 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found flaws in the methodology OPM used to calculate official time. At the agencies GAO investigated, if a proper methodology were used, official time costs are about 15 percent higher than OPM reports.

Federal employee unions have the right to lobby government, just like anyone else, but they should not do so at the taxpayer’s expense.

Due to poor tracking and reporting of official time, it is unknown how much official time federal employees use to lobby Congress. However, any time spent by federal employees engaging in political activity on the behalf of federal employee unions is too much. Political activity performed on official time only serves the interests of unions and their members, not the public they’re supposed to serve.