November 26, 2014
Victor is a communications specialist for EAG and joined in 2009. Previously, he was a newspaper journalist.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows taxpayers are spending $157 million a year to cover the wages of hundreds of unionized federal employees who spend all of their time working for their union.
The total, which also includes other forms of “official time” used for union business, comes from figures produced by the Office of Personnel Management for 2012. GAO figures show the union release time expense has grown significantly along with the size federal workforce, Watchdog.org reports.
The GAO report shows that in 2013 more than 10,500 federal employees in the government’s 10 largest agencies used official time, and more than 360 were released full-time from their work to conduct union business.
Those workers clocked a total of 2.48 million hours working for their unions while being paid by taxpayers, though GAO auditors believe the total is likely much higher because many agencies don’t track official time very effectively, according to the news service.
“Since agencies are most often managing the use of official time using an approach that has no specified number of hours, they could be at greater risk for abuse,” according to the GAO report.
The biggest offender is the Veterans Association, where 488 employees used 1 million hours in official time last year. The VA reported that 259 employees are paid by taxpayers to work full-time for their unions. Other departments with big totals include the Department of Homeland Security, which reported 2,960 employees spent 272,000 hours doing union work on the public’s dime.
“With veterans literally dying waiting to see a doctor, VA staff should be focused on fulfilling the promises made to America’s heroes rather than on performing union duties to secure greater benefits for themselves,” U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, told the Federal Times.
Coburn is among 14 Republican senators supporting a bill to address official time, but it hasn’t progressed past committee. Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey also introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House that hasn’t gone anywhere.
And while the totals for official time within the federal government is quite staggering, the same thing occurs in most school districts across the country. Teachers union officials in local school districts are granted partial or full time off to conduct union business, paid for by taxpayers.
It’s one of the numerous perks that’s written into collective bargaining agreements in many districts.
In many large urban districts, primarily those with chronic budget problems, the union release time expense has historically cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands each year.