GOP Lawmakers Want More Oversight of Union Workers With Federal Salaries

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

A group of Republican lawmakers is calling for more transparency in the practice of “official time” -- when public sector union officials receive taxpayer funded salaries and work in government offices -- proposing a bill to require an annual report detailing its use.

The legislation -- H.R. 568, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla. -- calls for the Office of Personnel Management to submit a yearly report to Congress “relating to the use of official time by federal employees.” Congress last required OPM to report on official time in 1998, and the agency did so voluntarily from 2002-2010.

In 1998 -- the last time OPM measured the number of employees working on official time -- 946 workers received federal salaries while working full-time for unions. An additional 2,064 employees spent at least 50 percent of their time on union activities, according to OPM’s report.

Starting in 2002, OPM voluntarily began collecting information on official time from each agency, but only in terms of hours worked. In 2010, federal employees worked more than 3 million hours of official time, costing the federal government more than $137 million. In 1998, union representatives worked more than 4.3 million hours on the taxpayers’ dime, with a cost of $108 million.

Ross introduced the bill in the last congressional session, but the legislation never made it out of committee.

The Florida lawmaker co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., who has already introduced a bill of his own to eliminate official time altogether -- the fourth time he has proposed such a law. Both measures have been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The American Federation of Government Employees did not respond to requests for comment but previously told Government Executive it has negotiated “fair and effective” use of official time with federal management.

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