OPM’s Closely Held Report of Union Official Time Use

The Author was able to obtain a copy OPM’s report on official time used by union representatives which reveals interesting data but apparently not distributed widely. Did you know that some Agencies give the union representing its employees as much a $3 in time for every dollar in dues received by the union?

I just got a copy of OPM’s fiscal year 2008 Official Time Report. I went looking on OPM’s website and it told me that such a document didn’t exist there.  I went to OPM’s press releases for March, the month on the cover of the report, and didn’t see anything there. I tried the press releases for February and April, no luck. Maybe it’s a vast conspiracy, whaddyathink? 

(Editor’s Note: Official time is the time granted to an employee by an agency to perform representational functions on behalf of the union. Official time is granted without charge to leave or loss of pay and is authorized only when the employee would otherwise be in a duty status. Official time is considered hours of work. In other words, official time is pay received by a federal employee who represents the union but continues to receive his or her salary as a federal employee.)

The OPM report states that, government-wide, 2,893,922 hours of official time were reported used in FY 08. That’s an interesting number in itself.  Most Agencies will tell you, or at least they used to tell you, that union official time use was one of the most under-reported things in America. Perhaps second only to movie star ages.

And, would you believe it, the figure has dropped each year since 2004 when it stood at a whopping 3,870, 460 hours.  

OPM estimates the cost of official time usage at $120,730,471. This includes salary and fringe benefits but not negotiated facilities and services. This figure does not include facilities and services given to federal employee unions pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. 

There are some very interesting numbers in all this. The National Labor Relations Board Union (NLRBU), with 1,104 employees to represent, spent the most time per bargaining unit employee at 12.18 hours each. Each hour cost us over $42.00. This translates into about $700.00 per employee per year or a total of $772,632.00.  

Keep in mind that dues at NLRB are either $6.00 for amateurs or $12.00 for professionals. With 801 members, the average dues payer puts about $280.00 in the kitty. While we’re still allowed to see the union’s financial report, note that the NLRBU took in $224,996.00, spent $135,008.00 ($71,000.00 on its officers) and has a net asset balance of $536,611.00. 

In other words, you and I (taxpayers) spend three quarters of a million a year to subsidize a union that doesn’t raise a quarter million in dues and has a half a million in the bank. Plus the Agency likely provides such amenities as computers, printers, internet access, office space, phone service, copy services, paper, desks, file cabinets, and stationery. Ain’t America wunnerful.  Talk about a stimulus package,   if you work at NLRB the Agency gives the union directly in time almost three dollars for each dollar you give.  

The Report has good news for union reps looking for more pay. The Merit Systems Protection Board pays official time at the rate of over $62.00/hour. Securities and Exchange Commission is a close second at just over $60/hour. The worst paid are at the International Boundary and Water Commission at $21.30/hour but that’s OK, no time was used there according to the report.

Alas, between the de-emphasis of union reports at the Department of Labor and OPM’s hide and seek on the 2008 Official Time Report, we may not get to see these figures in the future. We should. And Mr. President, if you need a loan, maybe you’re looking in the wrong places.

As always, the opinions are mine and mine alone.


About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.