Federal Employees News Digest

Rep. calls for end to ‘official time,’ unions continue pushback

For the past few years, unions and pro-organized labor advocates of federal employees have faced increasing pressures on decades-old law protecting union activities.

The use of “official time”—limited paid work time used to perform necessary union functions—has come under especially heavy fire in recent years, from the White House and some lawmakers.

Most recently, on July 30, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) called for passage of a law to ban the use of official time altogether.

Rooney introduced what he dubbed the “Do Your Job Act,” which a press release stated starkly would “end official time, an abusive practice where government employees use paid time off to perform union duties.”

“Union official time is a taxpayer funded subsidy that cost hard-working Americans at least $162.5 million in 2014,” Rooney claimed in the release. “Unions and federal agencies never report exactly how many federal workers are being granted official time, and at least hundreds of federal employees spend 100 percent of their time engaging in union activities while on the clock.”

“I introduced this bill to stop this unfair practice and to ensure that federal employees are working for all taxpayers, not for unions,” Rooney said in his release.

Federal employee unions have long battled against such characterizations of official time—countering official time is in actuality not only necessary and guaranteed to unions by law, but also limited to certain cleared activities. The American Federation of Government Employees, for example, offers information on its website.

“Employees are allowed to use official time only to perform representational activities,” AFGE said in a longstanding Q&A explainer posted on the union’s website. “Such activities include creating fair promotional procedures, establishing flexible work hours, setting procedures that protect employees from on-the-job injuries, enforcing protections from unlawful discrimination, developing telework practices, providing workers with a voice in determining working conditions, and representing employees in grievances and disciplinary actions.”

“By law, federal employee unions are required to provide fair representation to all employees at the worksite, not just those employees who pay dues,” the same AFGE explainer states. “Since the federal government is an open shop, meaning employees are not required to join the union, Congress established official time to ensure all employees would receive fair representation whether they belong to the union or not.”

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