The open bar at a wedding: union activity on the taxpayer dime, “official time”

The Capital Research Center has released an overview, as of November, of what is now a regular part of federal activity: taxpayer-funded union activities. Yes, federal employees carry out this “official time,” which can be unrelated to their jobs, and still collect their government salary.

OverSeas Radio NetworkAccording to the report, some employees have even devoted 100 percent of their time to union activities.

“In one instance [this year], John Reusing, a Social Security Administration employee who was also third vice president of [the American Federation of Government Employees] local 1923 in Baltimore, Maryland, reported that… ‘senior union officials offered him 100 percent official time for the rest of his career‘ if he agreed to keep quiet about the abuse.”

Silence is hardly necessary, though, since AFGE has acknowledged this activity, albeit in a less brazen form.

“For nearly 50 years, federal employees who serve as volunteer employee representatives have used official time to engage in representational activities while on duty status.”

CRC authors, Vincent Vernuccio and Trey Kovacs, point out that measurement of this activity is limited and avoided by many agencies. When pressured, however, the federal Office of Personnel Management has acknowledged 2,991,378 reported hours of official time in 2009. That comes to an estimated cost of $129,100,798—”equivalent to the salaries of a workforce of 1,500 full-time government employees, all working on union business but paid by the taxpayer.”

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), who in January introduced the Federal Employee Accountability Act to constrain use of official time, makes a similar estimate of $1.2 billion over ten years. H.R. 122 is still to get out of the House subcommittee on the federal workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and labor policy.

Since the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act restricts what union assistance federal employees can receive, this work is largely redundant anyway, at least in terms of benefiting the employees. As CRC rightly concludes:

“Official time amounts to a substantial and unjustified government subsidy for union activity, paid for by taxpayers—at a time when the federal government has massive budget deficits

Among the most prominent unions representing government workers are the [AFGE], whose receipts in FY 2010 totaled $103 million. The National Treasury Employees Union’s (NTEU) had $39 million in 2010 receipts, and the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) had receipts of $5.5 million [federal receipts only]…

Clearly, unions can afford to pay the cost of representing their members. Why ask [force] taxpayers to foot the bill?”

Why indeed. Without moral basis, union officials evidently have the guns of government on their side, and they can.

Fergus Hodgson

Director of fiscal policy studies at the John Locke Foundation, policy advisor with The Future of Freedom Foundation, and host of The Sta...

Reader Comments