The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has been nonchalant about tracking the amount of official time used by federal employee unions. “Official time” means time when a federal employee collecting federal pay and benefits is working on behalf of a union instead of performing the federal job for which he was hired. The last OPM report on the use of official time was in 2012.
As federal unions have become more active in politics, almost always supporting Democrats, it is not surprising there is some backlash in Congress now controlled by Republicans. No doubt, many Republicans see the unions as a force to that works against them in elections and helps Democrats.
Statement by Dennis Ross (R-FL)
Congressman Dennis Ross (R-FL) has introduced a bill that would require OPM to submit an annual report to Congress on the amount of official time used in a year. Congressman Ross made these comments in a written statement:
I introduced H.R. 1293 so Congress may better account for federal employees’ use of working hours and eliminate wasteful spending. This bill will require the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to submit an annual, detailed report to Congress on the use of ‘official time’ by federal employees, outlining specific types of activities or purposes for which this time was granted.
[T]last time OPM reported about the use of official time was in 2012. The report stated federal employees spent roughly 3.4 million hours conducting union business while on duty. This came at a cost of $157 million to the taxpayers. At a time when our country is nearly $20 trillion in debt, we need to ensure that we are better accounting for the use of taxpayer dollars. This legislation will bring greater transparency to the activities union officials are conducting while being paid by the American taxpayer. I encourage OGR and my colleagues to quickly consider and pass this common sense bill.
Reporting Requirements For OPM
The bill would require the following information from OPM:
- The total amount of official time granted to employees.
- The average amount of official time expended per bargaining unit employee.
- The specific types of activities or purposes for which official time was granted, and the impact which the granting of such official time for such activities or purposes had on agency operations.
- The total number of employees to whom official time was granted, and, of that total, the number who were not engaged in any activities or purposes except activities or purposes involving the use of official time.
- The total amount of compensation (including fringe benefits) afforded to employees in connection with activities or purposes for which they were granted official time.
- A description of any room or space designated at the agency (or its sub-component) where official time activities will be conducted, including the square footage of any such room or space.
The reality is that there is no reliable tracking on how much official time is used on behalf of federal employee unions. In 2012, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the official time report was not accurate. The 2012 GAO report implies the actual cost to the government was significantly higher than reported. (Also see Interesting Twists in OPM’s Official Time Report)
A more recent report by the GAO found that a similar problem now exists in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Congressman Ross submitted a similar bill in the last Congress that was not enacted.