GOP lawmakers are echoing concerns from the Office of Personnel Management regarding the abuse of a law that grants paid time off to unionized civil servants.
A joint report was released by Republican members from both the House and Senate on Thursday, exposing startling survey data about the amount of time some federal government union employees spend working on behalf of their labor organizations — on the taxpayers' dime.
The law allows union members to take time off from their government jobs (with pay) in order to engage in what's known as "official time," where the employees can participate in activities on behalf of their labor organizations. Collective bargaining, worker disputes, and whistleblowing are all examples of labor-management activities that would qualify.
Following their own report, OPM Director Jeff Pon called such activities "Taxpayer Funded Union Time within the Federal Government."
How bad is it?
Republican staff said in the committee report: "Some collective bargaining agreements allow certain labor union employees to spend 100 percent of their time on official time. These employees are subsidized by American taxpayer dollars, but do not have to do their regularly assigned work."
Pon estimates the cost of official time to taxpayers hit roughly $174.8 million in 2016, the latest year reported.
Lawmakers, in the meantime, discovered that in 2017, "nearly one thousand government workers spent at least half their working hours as union representatives," and that "hundreds of these employees receive compensation in excess of $100,000 per year."
There are also hundreds of employees who spent 100 percent of their federal working hours on official time — meaning, as the committees' report states, "these employees did not perform the job for which they were hired.
This includes a social worker and a pharmacist making nearly $150,000 each and a nurse anesthetist and dentist making over $190,000 each in fiscal year 2017."
What does the other side say?
The American Federation of Government Employees union disagrees with calling official time "union time," saying instead that it's "time spent representing workers who are the victims of illegal discrimination, illegal harassment, or other prohibited personnel practices."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) weighed in too, saying, "The Trump administration is launching a multi-front attack on our independent civil service. These actions will harm middle-class workers who dedicate their lives to public service, impair our ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest, and degrade the services that our government delivers to the people."