Federal Unions’ ‘Fake News’ and How to Check It

The author cites statistics depicting an alternate perspective on federal unions and the recent executive orders.

I admit to fascination at the statements made by many union representatives in response to recent Executive Orders addressing their use of government time, space, equipment, and services.

When the Civil Service Reform Act went into effect in 1979, no one on either side of the aisle in either house on the Hill or down the street on PA Avenue would have seen as remotely possible the complete payment of all employee/union representatives, some getting 100% of their work time doing union work. Also incredible in 1979 would have been the current practice in many Agencies of paying for all union communications, computing, office space, meeting space and other costa.

The other day in an article on the Federal News Radio website, AFGE Local 220 President Witold Skwierczynski, representing employees at Social Security Administration was reported as claiming: 

  • “It puts us in a very precarious situation, because if we don’t represent people … either because of the time or money, they could sue us,” Skwierczynski said. “They could sue us for failure to represent.”
  • Skwierczynski retired from SSA three weeks ago so he could continue to represent bargaining unit employees on a full-time basis. The decision was a difficult one, because he wasn’t planning to immediately leave, but he is of retirement age.
  • Skwierczynski spent the past several years working on 100 percent official time at SSA. 
  • “I would have preferred not to [retire], but if today I had to go back to my desk, I haven’t done my job in years,” he said. “I don’t have any clue about how to do my claims work job at this moment, because my job has been representing Social Security employees. I’d have to be retrained.”

My favorite line was the claim that he didn’t have a clue about how to do his claims work because he had been a 100% union representative for so long. Do I have this right? Didn’t this guy take an oath on day one of his employment:

“I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” (My emphasis)

So, this guy hasn’t been faithfully discharging the duties of his office for how many years? Really?

So, I took a peek at Local 220’s LM-2 (Labor Organization Annual Report) provided to the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (also included at the end of this article). This was not mentioned in the article. The union’s own report says:

  • He was paid $11,822 from employee dues as president in addition to his entire government salary and benefits.
  • Four other local union officials were paid a total of $19,737.00 reported as salaries in 2017.
  • The local paid a salary of $183,534 to its on-staff attorney and $32,687.00 to three other employees.
  • The local reported paying $108,934 for political activities including $66,000 paid directly to a DC lobbyist.
  • At the time of the Report, Local 220 had $345,509 in assets, all of which was in cash.

Then I took a look at OPM’s 2016 Official Time Report (the most recent). It states the cost of “reported” official time use which is known to be a low-ball estimate. At the Social Security Administration, it listed:

  • About 50,000 covered employees of which about 45,000 are represented by this local. The above DOL report says local 220 has 15,309 members or about 1/3 paying dues. 
  • The employees acting as union representatives used about 230,000 hours of official time at a cost to the taxpayer for salaries alone of approximately $7.650.000.00. If benefits are included, SSA paid out $10,530,000.00 for the union to represent SSA employees not counting other union giveaways. 
  • In the DOL report, the union claims it received $347,216 in dues.
  • So, the taxpayer is subsidizing each AFGE member at least $700.00 per year for the cost of the representatives only not counting offices, equipment, computers, etc. According to the report, dues are $1.50 per month or $18 per year. 
  • One needs not be a math wiz to figure out that you, the taxpayer, are paying $40.00 for every dollar the members pay for union representatives only. The numbers also indicate that this union alone is getting the equivalent of 115 full-time government employees who are not processing claims or assisting social security recipients.

Can This Be True?

One needs not be a mathematician to figure out that SSA was paying at least 40 times as much for representation as union members were. That doesn’t count the money SSA was paying for union office space, meeting space, computers, communications systems, interoffice mail, copying services, etc., etc., etc… I’d bet it amounts to more than $50.00 for every dollar the members spent on dues.

If these AFGE members are really paying $18 per year and making GS 9/Step 5 or about $50,000.00 per year, it is interesting that United Auto Workers members making $40,000.00 are paying $400.00 per year (exclusive of payments to the strike fund) according to UAW’s website. So, employees in one of the most highly unionized environment in the private sector are paying 20 times more to their unions and making 20% less. Really?

All of what I reported above is right from the sources provided to you. Mr. Skwierczynski would have you believe AFGE is poor and that the recent Executive Orders are designed to persecute them. Perhaps an experiment in paying for what one gets as in a raise in dues would tell us something, specifically whether any employees will actually pay for anywhere near the cost of their representation (about $700.00 each) rather than the equivalent of 6 or seven grande coffees at Starbucks that they’re paying now.

But you haven’t read any of this in stories about the Executive Orders, have you? Instead, you hear only the union’s side. Come on media, how about a little balance.

As a last thought, did you see what the local is paying for political activities? It was well over $100K, a substantial sum after it pays its assessment to the national union. I suspect the Washington Post, which in recent years has leaned way into federal sector unions’ direction politically perhaps is unaware that the American taxpayer is funding initiatives of a specific political party or, if it does (more likely), hasn’t got room to report it. How about a little investigative reporting, guys? After all, isn’t that what you claim to be famous for?

Little of the above is an opinion. Most of it related published facts and numbers. If you can rebut the above, have at it.

Local 220 Labor Organization Annual Report by FedSmith Inc. on Scribd

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.