Time To Make Federal Employees Accountable

Government labor unions have long been able to conduct union business while on the job and on the taxpayer dime, under a little-known policy called “official time.”  On July 17, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced legislation that would greatly reduce this tax give-away to unions.

The latest data shows an estimated $155 million in taxpayer money was wasted on “official time” activities in 2011 alone. In addition, the Official Time Usage in the Federal Government Fiscal Year 2011 Survey Responses indicate federal workers spent nearly 3.4 million hours conducting union business in 2011.

The Federal Employee Accountability Act, a companion bill to H.R. 107 sponsored by Representative Phil Gingrey, M.D., (R-GA), would repeal sections of 5 U.S.C. Section 7131 that provides federal employees official time. However, in the press release announcing the bill it states there would be “an exception for circumstances where both unions and agencies agree the use of official time is ‘reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest.’”

Upon introducing the bill Sen. Coburn remarked, “Using taxpayer dollars to finance what is often highly partisan and political full-time union work is a grievous violation of the public’s trust.”  In addition, Coburn noted:

“Sadly, this is a widespread problem.  Agencies like the IRS and VA have hundreds of employees on their payrolls that do nothing but full-time union work paid for by taxpayer dollars.  This bill will restore the public’s trust by ensuring federal employees – and the taxpayer funds that support them – are instead used to appropriately execute the mission of every federal agency.”

Sen. Coburn is right on the money – official time is a widespread problem. Thankfully, groups like the government watchdog group Americans for Limited Government (ALG) are letting us know how just how big. ALG has sent FOIAs to all federal agencies requesting the number of 100% official time employees and the data collected so far shows:

Department of Transportation 35 full-time official time employees

Department of Veterans Affairs 250

Environmental Protection Agency 17

Internal Revenue Service—201

National Labor Relations Board 2

In addition, the FY 2011/2012 Social Security Administration Report Concerning Expenditures for Union Activities records that 22 and 17 SSA employees spent 100 percent of their time on official time.

American taxpayers have been subsidizing federal union official time since the 1970s and it is about time to enact legislation to end these wasteful handouts to an undeserving special interest group.

To learn more about the Federal Employee Accountability Act, Official Time and CEIs pending FOIA lawsuit regarding official time see here, here and here