Labor Union Official Time Bill Set For May 24 House Vote

On Wednesday, May 24, the House is expected to vote on a plan, H.R. 1293, requiring better reporting on labor union “official time” – the practice of allowing federal workers to do union business on the taxpayer dime. Currently, the cost and scope of official time is not well documented by federal agencies. CEI labor policy expert Trey Kovacs praised this move as a good first step.

Representative Dennis Ross’ bill is a good step toward getting a handle on how many federal employees work on union business instead of the jobs they were hired to do. The practice called ‘official time’ forces taxpayers to subsidize government unions by giving federal workers paid time off to conduct labor union business, like lobbying Congress and attending union conventions.

The legislation would require the White House Office of Personnel Management to report annually on information the public deserves to know, like how much official time costs, how many hours are spent on union business, official time’s impact on agency operations, and what specific union activities federal employees perform. This is a crucial reform because the federal government has never consistently reported to the public the hours or cost of official time, nor how taking federal employees away from their duties impacts agency operations.

Taxpayers have a right to know how much of their tax dollars are used to finance federal employee unions and what union activities siphon away our public servants. By statute, official time use outside of collective bargaining must be “reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest,” but activity other than collective bargaining makes up more than three-fourths of official time use. Without proper tracking and recording, it is impossible to know if that time spent on union matters is at all reasonable, necessary, or in the public interest.

Trey Kovacs has written extensively on the official time issue and recently testified before Congress on that topic.