Paying Federal Employees to Represent Unions: Is This a Good Idea?

By on June 3, 2014 in Current Events with 116 Comments

Comments about “official time” for federal employee unions are becoming more frequent. Recent headlines regarding the Veterans Administration and the number and amount of official time given to federal employees to receive full pay and benefits while working on behalf of the union has received extensive coverage and most of it appears negative. Similar observations were made regarding the amount of time given to employees of the Internal Revenue Service and the cost to the government of providing people to work on behalf of the union.

Official time has been around in statute since 1978 when the Civil Service Reform Act was passed. Unions argue that giving them paid time off to represent employees with full benefits is fair because they have to represent all employees in a bargaining unit, even those who have not joined the union. Some also argue that since agency representatives are paid by the government, union representatives should be paid by the government also. This is different from the private sector where most unions consider their financial independence from the company necessary to represent employees.

No doubt, unions have had an impact on the federal workforce. Depending on the administration, unions may have more or less influence. Unions usually support Democrats and administrations where unions have worked to elect a Democratic president often try to increase their influence. Republicans, on the other hand, often see federal employee unions as negating the concept of a federal civil service that is free from political influence and many see unions are working hand in hand with Democrats. By extension, federal employees may also be seen as favoring Democrats over Republicans since a large percentage of the federal workforce is represented by unions–even if many federal employees do not join and pay dues to a union.

To see the results of this survey, visit 69% of Survey Respondents Say Official Time Reduces Efficiency or Wastes Government Resources.

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

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