AFGE Proposal: Agency Pays All Union Operating Costs

In a follow up on the Federal sector’s largest union’s demands in a nation-wide agreement, the author highlights the kinds of proposals AFGE is making to Agencies. As readers will see, Federal unions can and often do get the money they use for organizing and for political activity by getting Agencies to pay all of their other bills.

In a recent article, we took a look at the American Federation of Government Employee’s proposals on official time made in nationwide contract negotiations with a Federal Agency. In that article, we saw that the union was seeking four full time and many part time employees to do union work at no cost to AFGE. The cost was to be borne by the taxpayer.

In this article, we’ll look at the same negotiation with another union proposal addressing AFGE’s demand that all its operating costs be covered by the Agency. (The proposal is at the bottom of this article.) Well, that’s no surprise but the scope of the proposal certainly is. Congressmen have questioned the cost of official time at over $100 million per year. While that is certainly a low ball estimate (coming from OPM), it doesn’t scratch the surface of the funds unions demand in the form of office space, conference space,
equipment and services. I don’t think the Federal labor law was designed to subsidize union organizing, political activity or whatever but that appears the effect. Let’s see what AFGE expenses it wants us to cover.

Office Space

The proposal calls for the status quo for its locals that have been
consolidated into a national bargaining unit but ups the ante by demanding that
each local gets:

  • An office and a conference room for up to ten
    people at a time.
  • The space will be “conveniently” located. (Now
    there’s meat for an arbitration case.)
  • The space will exist in each geographical
    location within a local’s jurisdiction. That appears to mean not just an office and conference for each local
    but the same wherever employees are located.

Sound generous, the union wants the same for each national officer whether the local has space or not. BTW, there’s no limit anywhere in AFGE’s proposals on how many National Officers it can name.

Office Equipment

Now, you would think that the space would be enough of a benefit but we haven’t even gotten started yet. The proposal demands the following for each space:

  • Desks, chairs, lockable file cabinets,
    bookcases, conference tables, printer carts, and other furnishings commensurate
    with what is generally used in that work location.
  • Computers, laser printers, telephones, FAX
    machines and other equipment commensurate with what is generally used in that
    work location.
  • Telephones will allow access to long distance
    network and local calling. The Agency
    will provide conference calling capability, voice mail, and caller ID
    commensurate with what is provided other Agency work space.
  • Access to photocopiers, internal mail (for
    other than mass mailings), teleconference facilities, video conference
    facilities, video equipment (i.e., TV and DVD player), and other office
    services routinely used in that work location.
  • Routine cleaning and maintenance service in
    Union occupied space where it is located in Agency facilities. The Union is
    responsible for ensuring accessibility to its space during normal cleaning and
    maintenance schedules. (Nice of ‘em, Huh?)

Other Space

If the space provided isn’t sufficient, AFGE wants:

  • Access to conference rooms and auditoriums for
    meetings requiring that size space.
  • Where there are facilities they shall be made
    available for Union meetings and membership drives, before or after duty hours
    or during lunch periods if such space is not already committed.
  • There will be no charge to the Union for this
    space, furnishings and equipment.


We do live in a modern age, so AFGE wants to keep up, of course at taxpayer expense with the latest bells and whistles. I’ll bet there are a lot of American businesses that don’t have what the union is asking for. Check it out:

  • Computer equipment will allow access to the
    Agency’s network, e-mail, Intranet and internet.
  • Telephones will allow access to long distance
    network and local calling. The Agency
    will provide conference calling capability, voice mail, and caller ID
    commensurate with what is provided other Agency work space.
  • The Agency will provide the Council 120
    President, Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer with a smart phone (e.g.,
    Blackberry or iPhone), with e-mail capability, commensurate with what the Agency
    provides its managers. Providing this
    phone does not change the Union officers’ work schedule to on-call or
    stand-by. The Union officers will not be
    required to communicate with the Agency while he or she is not otherwise in a
    duty status.

Need I even comment on the arrogance and disregard for the taxpayer in the last sentence?

Bulletin Boards

The proposal calls not only for lockable on-site bulletin boards (in numbers determined in local negotiations) but access to Agency electronic boards as well. You’d think with Google offering free websites, they’d at least work up their own website. (Oops! I let the W word slip out, can’t have that, can we?

Email and Literature Access

The proposal provides the union email access on the same basis as Agency officials with virtually no limitation. If IT departments are worried about storage, wait until every employee
gets sent every decision or case or whatever the union wants. It does, generously, offer to be judicious in its use. It also proposes that union reps be free to go around on official time to deliver literature to employees.

Final Notes

If the Agency doesn’t agree to these proposals, it faces an uphill battle at the Impasses Panel which considers the provision of such services to be routine.  Why not? It’s only money and not the Panel’s anyway.

AFGE just won recognition at the Transportation Security Administration after a long and presumably (we’ll never know) costly battle with the Treasury Employees Union. Since both unions seek
and get most or all of their costs paid by the government, they can afford to spend union dues income to try and get more union dues income. Ain’t America wunnerful?

As always, any opinion you discern in this article is mine but I hope not mine alone.

AFGE Proposal on Using Agency Facilities

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.