A new report released today by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) reveals some of the costs associated with a little-known taxpayer giveaway to labor unions in Texas.
The report features the results of open records requests by CEI fellow Trey Kovacs to select local government entities. Despite a constitutional restriction on granting public aid to private entities, Texas municipal governments reported that they pay for public employees to conduct labor union business.
“Government officials in Texas should honor the state constitution and stop funding activities that only serve special interests without advancing any public purpose,” said Kovacs. “Labor union work should be on the union’s time clock – not on taxpayers'.”
So-called “union release time” is a practice that allows public employees to conduct union business during work time without loss of pay. Union release time activities can include: preparing and filing grievances, engaging in political activity, attending internal union meetings, union conferences, and negotiating contracts.
Specific findings published in the report include:
- The San Antonio Fire Department (SAFD) granted 4,238 release time hours in fiscal year 2012, at a cost to taxpayers $135,786.
- The San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) granted more hours than the SAFD. In FY 2012, SAPD released union employees for 7,941 hours, at a cost of $252,581.10 In FY 2013, release time hours amounted to 8,301, at a cost of $272,244.
- In Austin, the city’s Police Department (APD), Fire Department (AFD), and Emergency Medical Services (AEMS) granted 10,857 hours of release time in FY 2012 and 16,963 in FY 2013, a cumulative total of 27,821.14. For the salaries made available, the cost of union release time to Austin taxpayers was $227,530 and $593,783 in FY 2012 and FY 2013, respectively.
The report offers several remedies to this problem. Legislators, citizens, and municipal officials themselves have the ability to put an end to the government give-away.
- Taxpayers are authorized to file suit challenging this unnecessary government expense.
- The Texas legislature could take action to prohibit the practice.
- Texas municipal governments could stop negotiating release time into collective bargaining agreements.